MAKING GP appointments over the phone remains a major problem for patients in Swindon.

Four of the town’s practices were ranked as the worst in the area covered by the Bath & North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Clinical Commission Group, the latest GP Patient Survey has revealed.

Patients were invited to share their views on a wide range of topics, including making appointments with their doctor and accessing information – with 12,684 completing the questionnaire.

Just 42 per cent of the respondents said they had a ‘good’ experience of booking a slot at Abbey Meads Medical Practice, ranked the worst in the CCG area.

It was followed by Phoenix Surgery and Park Lane Practice – both scoring 45 per cent – and Moredon Medical Centre, with a rating of 53 per cent.

Abbey Meads and Moredon were taken over by Great Western Hospital NHS Foundation Trust after being managed by private health company Integral Medical Holdings during an ill-fated spell which sparked protests over phone waits in 2019.

The survey revealed just 24 per cent of respondents found it easy to get through on the phone at Moredon and 32 per cent at Abbey Meads – both ranked at the bottom of the CCG list.

Park Lane was named the worst surgery in the region by patients, with an overall approval rating of 57 per cent, followed by Abbey Meads Medical Practice and Phoenix Surgery, both with a rating of 59 per cent.

Quality assurance officer for Park Lane and Phoenix Katherine Rose said the practices would act on the feedback.

She said: “We can say with full confidence that all staff at Park Lane Practice and Phoenix Surgery are 100 per cent committed to ensuring that each and every patient receives a safe standard of high-level care.

“Park Lane Practice and Phoenix Surgery runs its own patients’ satisfaction survey every year by asking the patients who are using the services. We can reassure our patients that we score very highly in our in-house survey.”

READ MORE: Best and worst GP practices rated by patients in Swindon

READ MORE: Staff praised as Cricklade Surgery tops the list

A spokeswoman for GWH apologised to patients at Abbey Meads and Moredon, saying: “There are currently widespread challenges in primary care, which have been made all the more difficult due to the impact of Covid-19.

“The second wave of coronavirus, which we experienced at the start of this year, was particularly demanding on staff and it should be noted that the survey responses were collated during this period.

“We know that this is not an excuse though and want to apologise to our patients for their experiences with our practices.

“We took on these practices at the end of 2019 following significant failings under the previous provider.

“Our primary aim was to stabilise and improve these services and, whilst we always said that taking over these practices would be an extremely difficult job, lots of improvement work has already been done and this has been recognised by the CQC.”

Ms Rose said Park Lane and Phoenix had also seen an increase in demand during the pandemic.

She said: “We are thankful to a majority of our patients who have supported us during these difficult times but unfortunately we have not been able to satisfy a small number of the patients who have taken part in the national survey.

“We will continue to work hard, to provide the best care we can, to our patients.

“It is never the case that we do not want to answer our incoming phone calls, it is that our phone lines have increased in demand more than we have ever seen and to keep up with demand we have recently again upgraded are phone lines, increasing our number of lines coming into the practice.

“Through the pandemic we have had our own battle with staff contracting Covid-19, staff self-isolating and also supporting the vaccination programme by supplying multiple members of staff weekly from both administration and clinical teams. We are also seeing more and more patients face to face, this has never stopped, we have been cautious to protect both staff and patients and thankful that we have maintained a safe environment.”

Meanwhile, GWH says improvement programme is underway at Abbey Meads and Moredon, which is focused on patient experience, accessibility, integration, efficiency and quality of care.

The GWH spokeswoman added: “While this is a significant improvement from where the practices once were, we know there is still more to be done to give the patients the GP services they deserve.

“We have recently introduced an online triage system which means patients can get advice from the practice remotely and don’t need to wait so long on the phone. We are also looking at how we can improve the telephony system and are holding regular patient experience forums to hear directly from those who use our services about how we can make even more improvement.”

She added the trust is recruiting more GPs – against a backdrop of a national shortage of GPs.

“We have also recently welcomed a new head of operations who will be leading on rolling out the improvement programme.

“This will also be supported with recruitment of other clinical and non-clinical staff.

“We want to thank our staff for their continued hard work during this challenging time.”

BSW CCG has improved its overall score, from 74 per cent in 2019 to 87 per cent, above the national average of 83 per cent.

A CCG spokesperson said: “GP practices have been open throughout the coronavirus pandemic, with health and care teams doing all they can to continue looking after those most in need, either in person or online, and we are delighted that this show of commitment has been recognised so warmly by our patients.

“Of course, the GP Patient Survey also shows where things can be improved and we will use this feedback, along with other locally gathered insight, to ensure services remain at a high standard and responsive of patients’ needs.

“For now, and to help practices to continue caring for those most in need, we ask that people only contact their surgery for health concerns that cannot be managed at home, through NHS 111 or with a visit to a local pharmacy.”

The best performing practice in Swindon according to patients is Cricklade Surgery, scoring an overall approval rating of 97 per cent.

Westrop Medical Practice, Priory Road Medical Centre, The Lawn Medical Centre, and Old Town Surgery have all received approval ratings above 90 per cent in Swindon.