"Dire appointment booking system"

About: Nottinghamshire County Teaching PCT

(as the patient),

My GP surgery, Orchard Medical Practice in Mansfield has super GPs, not a bad word to say about them, one of them pretty much diagnosed my husband's condition, which is very rare and he had only seen one other case of it in all his years as a GP. However, getting an appointment to see them is another story.

I have recently been struggling with sleep problems. I have been unable to sleep, and the sleep I have had has been very broken and inadequate. As a result I have experienced very frightening physical symptoms such as palpitations, which catch me completly off my guard, halucinations, mainly seeing animals such as cats and dogs, and an old man with a dog, and shaking hands so badly I cannot even hold a drink.

I have been on a four day course this week, struggled through it, and phoned them yesterday to try and get an appointment pre booked for Monday of next week. You cannot pre book, the only appointments you can pre book are over two weeks in advance.

I explained that when you try to phone in the morning to get an appointment, you simply cannot get through, constantly engaged, and if you do manage to get a ring tone, 99% of the time the automated service plays music to you then cuts you off without an answer. This means more constant redialing, and by 8: 30am, all the day's allocated appointments have gone. You have a 30 minute window between 8am and 8: 30am to get through, as by 8: 30am, all that day's 'book on the day' appointments are gone.

I tried to explain my problem to the receptionists, but simply got told 'you just have to keep redialing'. So I asked if it would be better to come into the surgery for 8am, and she said 'OH I can't advocate that because it wouldn't be fair on the people who are struggling to get through on the phone! ' so blunt and rude. An open admission their phone system cannot cope with the volume of patients they have taken on.

I don't know what to do, I feel so fustrated and so stuck. I only see 3 GPs, as they know us well, but usually if in a rare instance I can get through, I can see these GPs with no issue.

I feel I may have to go to A&E or the emergency out of hours service, and that would make me feel so bad because I may be stopping someone with a really dangerous medical problem from getting the treatment they need, but I feel like I am going insane from lack of sleep. I have another committment tomorrow, and I feel too tired to manage it, but I have to do it, nobody has any idea what this feels like.

I do not think a receptionist is in any place whatsoever to deny someone who has explained how ill they feel and how urgently they feel they should be seen. If I become very ill due to lack of sleep and get hospitalised, it will cost the NHS and the taxpayer in excess of £1000 a day to keep me in hospital, now offset that against the cost of a 10 minute GP appointment where I could at least get assessed and get the help I need.

I feel I may have no choice other than to procede to a formal complaint regarding the obstructive nature of the reception staff, and the totally inadequate appointment allocation system. This is partly just so I might actually be able to get an appointment if I complain!

In order to go in as an 'emergency' you must feel your case is an 'emergency' and I again feel I may be denying someone who is in more dire need from getting one of their precious appointments. I really do not know what to do, and if you go in as an emergency you don't get so much time to explain your problem as they have to fit in so many people.

I feel this practice has exceeded it's maximum capacity of patients, and is struggling to maintain a quality appointment service to every one of them.

I have also considered contacting PALS, but I don't know if they can do anything.

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