Telegraph readers tell us about their struggle to book GP appointments: 'So much for our wonderful NHS'

a man sitting on a chair: A GP checking a patient's blood pressure. GP practices in England have been reminded that they must make sure patients can access face-to-face appointments if they need them, as the coronavirus crisis continues - Anthony Devlin /PA © Anthony Devlin /PA A GP checking a patient's blood pressure. GP practices in England have been reminded that they must make sure patients can access face-to-face appointments if they need them, as the coronavirus crisis continues - Anthony Devlin /PA

Writing in The Telegraph this week, Allison Pearson declared that it is a scandal that patients are struggling to see their GPs and argued that our lives shouldn’t be at the mercy of bureaucrats who don’t care about the emotional consequences of their rules.

It was revealed last year that the NHS’s digital-first approach to GP surgeries has failed to make up for a shortfall in appointments, with roughly a million fewer patients being seen by doctors every month.

Is it now harder than ever to book a GP appointment? Telegraph readers have told us about their experiences. Read on for the best discussion points from our readers and share your own view in the comments section. 

'We are fed up'

@Jane S:

"Our large GP surgery have had their doors ‘closed’ for over a year. Everyone is utterly fed up. No doubt many serious illnesses have been missed. How many people have died as a consequence?

"I only know of one person who has had a face to face appointment and that was after a very badly handled phone consultation. 

"Why can you see a nurse but not a doctor? All the medics have been vaccinated so have the majority of their patients. So what is the problem?" 

'Diabetic friend hasn't seen any medical personnel for over a year'

@Jan L:

"I have a friend staying with me. He is diabetic and probably borderline with dementia since he became homeless. I tried to get an appointment with his GP because his condition has worsened - he hasn't seen any medical personnel for over a year now - only to be told they weren't doing face to face appointments.

"I tried the nurse practitioner, to be told I could have one at the end of June (this was in April). He's seeing one of the nurses tomorrow after she managed to squeeze him in after I screamed at the receptionist."

'So much for our wonderful NHS'

@Ian S:

"In March, I developed a fairly serious eye problem that required an urgent appointment with my doctor. I phoned my local GP to be told by the receptionist that I would get a phone consultation the next day. Ten minutes before this phone call I was rung by the receptionist to say that this had been cancelled due to the GP being ill.

"She also told me that this was considered as a successful appointment even though it had been missed. She became very defensive when I said that was wrong at which point I was told to ring 111 and take it from there.

"After ringing 111 I managed to get an emergency appointment where I was treated. The pain in my eye was terrible by this time and I was in some despair. So much for our wonderful NHS."

'I have had a very good experience'

@Duncan M:

"To be fair, I had very good treatment last week.  Nine days following my second AstraZeneca jab I developed severe numbness for some hours, only in one foot.  It was late, so at 6 p.m. I rang 111 and was then told that a local GP would ring within an hour.  He did and he went through everything, was quite puzzled. 

"To cut a long story short, I was told to go to A&E, he wrote to them in advance and phoned the stroke nurse.  I was admitted and had one test that night, another the next day.  All ok, so not a stroke and not a reaction.  Outpatient tests to follow.  Basically, excellent 'just-in-case' service all round."

'My prostate cancer would not have been picked up today'

@C Coleman:

"I for one would certainly be dead by now had this pandemic happened four years ago.  I went to see my GP about a couple of broken ribs. During the course of her questioning she suspected something else wrong and took a sample for a blood test.  Unknown to me she included a request for a PSA test.

"Well it turned out that I had the most virulent form of prostate cancer.  This would never have been picked up today as I really had no symptoms to speak of.  My NHS treatment then was faultless and I am still going strong (fingers crossed).

"I don’t have words to describe my disgust at the way the public has been treated over the last year by the NHS."

'It's too easy to point fingers at the top'

@Paul K:

"My wife has had two in-person GP appointments in the past year. One for a suspicious skin blemish, with a rapid referral for an in-person dermatology hospital appointment - blemish was declared benign. The other for neurological check over following a strange "dizzy spell" - a comprehensive GP check with a medical student assisting revealed no issues of concern.

"I had a blood pressure check by the practice nurse after home testing showed elevated levels. While a GP requested a blood test, a very mildly suspicious result prompted the Hospital hematologist to send a slide for checking.

"This revealed very early stage Leukemia (CML) a rapid access appointment within two weeks was arranged with various scans and bone marrow tests within three weeks of the initial referral, with medication starting about 1 month after the initial referral.

"For us, the GP/NHS service has been as good through the pandemic as in the before-times.

"It is too easy to point fingers at the top when, in practice, it is decisions and approaches at the GP level that produces unacceptable variation."

'How can we complain?'

@C Southgate:

"My husband has a telephone consultation next Monday, 10 days after a request to see a doctor about his extremely painful shoulder, what the GP will be able to suggest without sight of the shoulder we have no idea, he may consent to a face to face but we are not holding our breath.  

"The question is who do we contact to complain and ask for normal service to be resumed if, as it appears, GPs can't make their own decisions?"

'Don't blame the patients' 

@Delia P:

"The A&E in which I work at is full of people who could or should have been physically seen by a GP. I don't blame the patients - they need to be examined.

"Some GP practices have managed to see patients but it's all so variable. The fundamental relationship with primary care and the community has now broken. We need a new model fit for the 21st century."

'Disgraceful way to treat patients'

@Ann H:

"I tried to get a good appointment recently and was told there were no appointments available.

"I advised the receptionist that the nurse I had seen that morning at the GP practice told me to make an emergency appointment and suddenly there was a telephone appointment available that same afternoon. I then received a referral to the local hospital gynecology department for an in person appointment.

"When I tried to book this online, I found no appointments available for 42 weeks. A couple of days later, I received a letter chasing me to book my appointment. Absolutely disgraceful way to treat patients."

'It's cruel'

@Karen J:

"Our surgery has just announced that patients must now make appointments by completing an online form. This will then be assessed by a clinician. Can you imagine feeling ill and having to go through this ridiculous process, and then having to wait for goodness knows how long for someone to get back to you?

"The whole thing is cruel and distressing."

'Personal contact is key'

@Patricia N:

"I have managed, after two separate online applications, to be seen by two different GPs at my surgery over the last several months, both incidents non-related and minor. My husband filled in the online form and was phoned and given an appointment the same morning. 

"However, thinking back to a time a few years ago when my face began to distort during a shopping trip, I got an emergency appointment that day.  As I entered the doctor’s room I said,  'you probably can’t see anything wrong with me but I looked in a mirror in a shop a couple of hours ago and something is wrong with my face'. Her response was, 'you don’t need to tell me, I could see what was wrong with you the minute your head came around the door'.  It was an infection from an insect bite, quite nasty.

"The point is, had she not seen me in person, would she have immediately sussed the problem out? I don’t know. 

"Personal contact is key.  Your gait, your stance, your body movements, your skin and eyes, all give clues to the doctor."

'The telephone can never be a substitute' 

@Thomas L:

"Our surgery made the move to telephone consultations long before Covid and I fail to see how this can be seen as best practice. I am not a doctor, but my understanding is that one of the most important tools for diagnosis is touch.

"The telephone can never be a substitute for a face to face consultation and it is time the NHS made this type of appointment the exception rather than the rule."

'I've been told not to email my GP'

@Scaramouche D:

"I have for a number of years very infrequently emailed my GP rather than waste his time with an unnecessary appointment. If he wants me to come in he replies to that effect, if not necessary he tells me what I need to know by email.

"In the middle of last year, I had an email from the practice telling me that he would no longer be able to respond to my email requests and that appointments should be sought through the receptionists. You just can't help some people."

Have you struggled to book a GP appointment? Share your story in the comments section below.

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Telegraph readers tell us about their struggle to book GP appointments: 'So much for our wonderful NHS'