Thousands of Black Country patients can't see their GP
Thousands of people in the Black Country are unable to get an appointment when they phone their doctor - the worst rate in the UK.
Around 25,000 people surveyed could not see their GP when required, with thousands more failing to get through to surgeries on the phone.
The situation is putting major pressure on overstretched A&E departments and walk-in centres.
One in seven Black Country patients can't get an appointment with their GP, the survey revealed.
And almost one third – 11,870 patients – have difficulty even getting through to their GP surgery on the phone, again the most in England.
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Calls were today made to improve GP appointment services, with many patients facing 'nightmare' problems and being forced to look elsewhere for healthcare.
More people are resorting to visiting already overstretched A&E departments in hospitals, or non-emergency walk-in centres.
And thousands of people every day are struggling to get basic access to their local surgeries.
The damning statistics show the Black Country and Birmingham is often the worst area in the country for patients being able to access their GP.
As many as 31 per cent have to wait more than 15 minutes to be seen when they get into their doctor's surgery, with only London seeing longer waits.
The statistics cover January to March and July to September last year and saw 49,041 patients surveyed.
The Department of Health's GP patient survey found that 14 per cent of patients in the Black Country and Birmingham couldn't get an appointment.
Thirteen per cent said reception staff weren't helpful and a whopping 53 per cent couldn't get an appointment for the day they wanted.
Staffordshire fares slightly better, with nine per cent of patients unable to get an appointment.
And 15 per cent had to wait a week or longer before they saw or spoke to a GP or nurse.
A patient support group expert said that the number one priority for patients in Staffordshire was sorting out GP appointments.
Jan Sensier, chief executive of Healthwatch Staffordshire, said some practices could be a 'nightmare'.
She added: "We had people say routine appointments took up to a month to sort out.
"The problem is partially down to a lack of GPs. We're using GPs now more than we ever did"
A patient support group expert said she was not surprised by the figures and that better ways must be found for people to book appointments.
Maxine Bygrave, chair of Healthwatch Wolverhampton, said: "Sadly this just reflects what patients have told us.
"They struggle to get appointments," she added.
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