SOME patients in Swindon are finding more difficult than ever before to get an appointment at their GP surgery.

The borough is 25 per cent short of its quota of full-time GPs, with total number the number dropping from 125 to 116 in the last two years.

Much-publicised problems resulting from the IMH management of five surgeries in the town – Taw Hill, Eldene and Phoenix surgeries and the Abbey Meads and Moredon medical centres – has made matters worse.

One patient told the Adver he has been waiting four months for an appointment after he received a letter from his doctor asking to discuss his blood test results.

Michael Dams, 57, is a teacher at Commonweal School in Swindon and he decided to queue up before Moredon Medical Centre opened in the morning.

He was the first person in the queue but as soon as the doors opened he was told there were no appointments.

Michael said: “I was in the queue for about an hour and a half before I got to speak to a receptionist. The receptionist then said there are no appointments available for that day.

“They don’t have any appointments unless a doctor makes one for you and you can’t see the doctor without making an appointment. So, basically, there aren’t any.

“It’s a catch-22 situation. You have to wait until you have a cardiac arrest before you can get into the system and get an appointment. I just gave up and I thought ‘I cannot get an appointment. If it’s deadly, if I’m going to die, then that’s when they will contact me’.”

Another patient who has been with Moredon Medical Centre for more than five decades has seen it change over the years.

Marie Mundy, 69, of Penhill, said: “It’s annoying because I have been with the surgery for 51 years.

"I have diabetes and I have had swollen feet for over three weeks now.

"I went to Moredon two weeks ago and there seems to me that there are about four or five doctors there, but they say that there is shortage of appointments and doctors.”

Marie stood outside the surgery before it had even opened, being one of the first in the line trying to book an appointment.

She said: “It’s happened a few times, but you get used to it. It’s such a lovely place to go to but you’re thinking to yourself ‘what on earth is going on’.

“When I was seen by the receptionist, I was told there were no appointments left and I asked about the other doctors and I was told that there was no appointments there either. But you can’t blame the receptionists for that. It’s just getting the doctors taken on and keeping them there. The staff do look after us, but I don’t know any of the doctors by name.”

Peter Swinyard, who runs the Phoenix Surgery in Toothill, said: “In 1985 all GPs would work full-time but those days are gone and that’s not an unreasonable thing. But it does mean you have to train more people to do the same job they used to do.

“There is a big gap naturally for the number of GPs, which means that patients can’t just see their own doctor.

"People have to think of their own primary care services and they need to think before picking up the phone.

“Although more GPs are being trained, it will take a few years for them to be fully trained and some of these won’t even join the force.

“It has always been the end of general practicing when there is a change.

"Every year now is an end to the practice system, but people need to realise that there will be a loss of GPs.”

Swindon Borough councillor Bob Wright labels the shortage of fully trained GP’s a crisis and is shortening the lives of many who can’t be seen.

He said: “Absolutely nothing we’ve done has made a difference in our poorest areas and as a result these people die. The worst element of all this is that someone could be saved if they were seen by somebody.”

It's not always necessary to see a GP

PATIENTS might had delays in getting an appointment at Swindon surgeries, but health professionals say it’s not always necessary to see a GP.

Frustrated patients have said they can be waiting weeks or even months to see a doctor, while others are turning to A&E for help – 17 per cent of adults think they will have tests carried out quicker via that route.

The British Social Attitudes survey revealed 19 per cent believe A&E medics are more knowledgeable than their a GP.

Jo Osorio, the development officer for Healthwatch Swindon, said: “One of the things I have to emphasise to people is that very often you don’t need to see a general practitioner.

"There are a whole variety of other specialists that people can be seen by as sometimes a GP is not the best person to see.”

Dr Peter Swinyard, who runs the Phoenix Surgery in Toothill, suggested: “It may be more appropriate for them to see a specialist before seeing a GP.

"NHS England are trying to help people to see the specialist person that they need rather than a GP.”

As well as visiting a GP for a medical problem patients, can see a specialist nurse for a specific health issue, a clinical pharmacist, physiologist and a mental health nurse, among others

Dr Swinyard added: “I’m always delighted when I see someone come in with a list because then we have an agenda.

"Not all doctors like this as people need to be aware that we have limited time.”