Patient turned away in tears after queueing for over an hour at Lewisham GP blighted by long waits

12 April 2024, 08:15 | Updated: 12 April 2024, 08:42

Patients were forced to wait over an hour at Hilly Fields Medical Centre in Ladywell
Patients were forced to wait over an hour at Hilly Fields Medical Centre in Ladywell. Picture: Anna-Maria Cahalane
Henry Riley

By Henry Riley

Patients were back queueing for over an hour this morning outside a London GP surgery where people have been struggling to see a doctor.

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A large number of people waited from 6.50am for the 8am opening at Hilly Fields Medical Centre in Ladywell, South London this morning.

LBC witnessed one woman who waited for around an hour leaving the surgery in tears after failing to get an appointment.

One woman who was 14th in the queue this morning told LBC she failed to get an appointment today and would have to queue again before 8am tomorrow morning. “I didn’t manage to get an appointment today so It’s going to have to be tomorrow. Queue up first thing - before 8am, they said appointments are finished, gone for the day.”

Another woman in the queue told LBC she managed to get an appointment for her four year old son for tomorrow but at a different surgery.

She said: “My concern is that… my son needs to be seen by his GP who knows his medical history but we haven’t been given any appointment at this practice. Not ideal but at least we got an appointment.”

Yesterday a picture of the queue went viral. - and the surgery is facing complaints from patients who are being told to turn up and queue instead of trying to get an appointment over the phone.

Among the patients at the surgery this morning was Rose, who had been ill since Friday.

She told LBC her first trip out of the house all week was to try and get a doctor’s appointment. She has been a patient there for 20 years but today had to queue at 6.50am for an 8am opening in order to see a doctor.

Queue at south London GP

17 people were forced to queue outside at the GP before 8am.

Patients at the surgery have complained about being made to wait hours and even weeks just to speak to a doctor.

Anna-Maria Cahalane, who waited in the queue for at least an hour on Wednesday, told LBC that when you call reception to book an appointment at 8am, staff say: "You'd have a better chance [waiting] in queues."

Now that more residents have taken to waiting outside, the queue start time has been getting earlier and earlier, starting this week from 7.30am.

Despite the queue starting so early, the ‘majority’ of people were still turned away, according to Ms Cahalane.

Anna also claims that on Wednesday, the only appointments were given to children - at a different GP practice a bus ride away on a Saturday.

Ann Greensmith also took to Twitter to record her frustration, saying: “The situation is dire; you can’t get appointments and I have waited for up to 2 hours in the phone queue, only to be cut off when reaching number one in the queue.”

Ayca Ozturk, 40, who was also turned away, said she would have to arrive at 6am to get an appointment.

She said: “One hour I waited in the queue. It used to be online to get an appointment but there’s never anything there [any more]. On the phone you can’t talk to them. There’s 30 people in the queue. They say ‘come and queue at 8am’.

“She [the receptionist] was rude and said there’s no appointments, just telephone appointments. When I accepted that, she said there’s no telephone appointments as well.”

Patients were still turned away after queuing
Patients were still turned away after queuing. Picture: Anna-Maria Cahalane

Patients have also claimed they have been waiting two hours on the phone, only to be cut off at the last minute.

As has been the case at many GP surgeries across the country, getting an appointment to see a doctor has become increasingly difficult after the pandemic.

At Ms Cahalane's former surgery, which closed down at the start of Covid, patients were able to get an appointment within 'ten minutes of being on the phone'.

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A staff member at the surgery has blamed a 'lack of staff' for the long waits patients face.

“We are short of staff. We don’t have enough. There’s only two working on reception,” they told MyLondon.

“They [patients] can see it everyday they come here. It becomes really delayed on the phones. We are also short of doctors. We do the best we can.”

A spokesperson for the South East London Integrated Care Board, which oversees primary care in the area, said: “Hilly Fields Medical Centre apologised for the inconvenience patients experienced today.

“The practice is planning to implement a new call hub in the next 10 days which should improve their response to phone calls, and they will be launching an online triage system soon, which should also make it easier for patients to contact the practice.

“These actions are part of local work to implement the National Primary Care Access Recovery Plan.”