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GP defends waiting times for appointments in Sandwell after patients complain

A GP has defended access to local doctors and nurses in autumn this year, despite many residents complaining they cannot arrange appointments to see their medical advisers.

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It comes as 60,000 more GP appointments were held in September and October this year than before the pandemic, new data for the Black Country and West Birmingham has revealed.

The latest figures for GP access show that 1,403,078 appointments took place in September and October this year, up from 1,339,677 in September and October 2019.

Of these, 62 per cent of appointments were face-to-face, while 45 per cent took place on the same day as they were requested – up from 40 per cent in 2019.

Dr Ian Sykes, clinical chair of NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Our CCG serves just over 1.4 million people, and Sandwell is approximately just under 30 per cent of that number with 320,000.

“Despite the pandemic, we’re up 60,000 on the number of appointments that were that took place in October 2019. So as a rough guide, you could assume that within Sandwell there are about 15,000 more appointments. Or, 2,000 more appointments per week, and every week this year than there were pre-pandemic.

“I know that councillors are regularly getting letters from from residents in their constituencies [sic] and saying it’s impossible to get a GP appointment. But we can say in September and October this year, 1.4 million people did get appointments with their GP, of which 62 per cent are face-to-face.

“So the idea about you can’t get to see a GP and you can’t get to see all their other other health professionals is is not true.”

Sarb Basi, Director of Primary Care for NHS Black Country and West Birmingham CCG, added: “Throughout the pandemic, GP practices across the Black Country and West Birmingham have adapted.

“They are providing patients with alternative methods of accessing services via telephone and online consultations, whilst continuing to offer face-to-face appointments when clinically appropriate.

“Despite this, we know that some people are still waiting too long on the phone to their practice for their call to be answered and we understand this can be incredibly frustrating.

“Our staff are working harder than ever and seeing more patients than ever, however demand on our services continues to be higher than we’ve ever seen.

“We are encouraging patients to consider other ways of making contact if they are able, such as completing an e-consult form on the NHS app or the practice’s website, which will be responded to by the practice in a timely manner.”