A PATIENT was left stunned after being told she would have to wait almost seven weeks for an appointment to see her GP.
Cheryl Emms, 40, called Dalhouse Medical Centre in Bonnyrigg on March 13 but was told the next available slot with the doctor she wanted was on April 28 – 46 days later.
Staff said she could go in and wait for an emergency consultation the following day but Cheryl chose to wait because her issue was not urgent.
She said it was worrying patients were having to wait so long to see someone for routine health matters.
She said: “When I asked and she said ‘seven weeks’ I couldn’t believe it.
“She said unless you come for an emergency appointment it’s about four or five weeks in Bonnyrigg, even when you don’t ask to see a specific doctor.
“When I put it on Facebook, a lot of people were saying that’s normal here. The population is growing at such a rate, they can no longer cope with our basic needs.
“I just think to myself it’s a really bad situation where you have got to wait seven weeks to see your GP. The government clearly needs to give more funding for GPs.”
Brian Smith, practice manager at Dalhouse Medical Centre, said the surgery made every effort to keep waits to a minimum. Factors such as the time of day a patient rang could affect appointment times with half of appointments held back for day releaseg.
More appointments will be available from June he added, when a new GP arrives.
It follows our story revealing Lothian needs 33 new GP surgeries by 2024 to cope with the region’s rising population. Of its existing practices, nearly a third need extending or modernising, with GPs saying they are being pushed to breaking point by soaring demand. Dr Jean Turner, a former GP and executive director of Scotland Patient Association, said this was another sign of overstretched services.
She said: “The situation is ridiculous for everyone concerned. GPs cover about 90 per cent of the work in the NHS and they always did. General practice and primary care was the jewel in the crown for the NHS and unfortunately more and more work has been put their way by hospitals but I don’t think there has been the equivalent money pushed their way to increase the number of practitioners and district nurses, leading to situations like this.”
Lothian MSP Sarah Boyack said the length of time was unacceptable, adding: “This is not a problem to be dealt with in the future – extra GP capacity needs to be addressed now.”
Dr Andrew Buist, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association’s Scottish GP committee, said that the rise in waiting times for appointments will get worse unless there is a substantial cash injection.”
He added: “Improving access for a growing number of patients will require a significant investment to increase the capacity of general practice.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said a new GP contract for 2014-15 reduced bureaucracy for GPs allowing more time for patients.
He said: “While GP practices are responsible for ensuring appointment requests are appropriately prioritised, all should see patients receive the care they need in a timely manner, and we have been clear with health boards that long waits for routine appointments are unacceptable.”