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GP patients share 'nightmare' over waiting times as they're told no routine appointments until new year

Patients are frustrated with GP waiting times as they claim their local surgery has no routine appointments available until the new year. Valleys residents claim they have been told no appointments at Forest View Medical Centre in Treorchy are being released until December 5, and they will not be able to book an appointment until January 2023.

Since the merger with New Tynewydd surgery in 2021, Forest View Medical Centre provides care to 17,000 patients in the area. Patients of the local surgery claim that they have been on hold for hours every day trying to get a routine and an emergency appointment, only to be told to "ring back at 1pm" or "try again tomorrow".

Richard Clarke, 55, from Treorchy, claims that he was told, while trying to schedule a follow-up appointment, that no new routine appointments were being released until early December. Mr Clarke explains that he previously had to go through Buffy Williams MS to get an appointment at the surgery.

READ MORE: Man who waited 30 hours in A&E claims nurses are having to spend their own money to buy food for patients

He said: "I was getting quite anxious over this period and eventually contacted my Senedd member whose secretary got in touch with the surgery. They were then able to offer me an appointment a week Tuesday. I had an excellent GP who gave me medication to trial and told me to book back in, in four weeks' time. I immediately rang the surgery back and after a few times calling, I was told there was no new appointments available until December 5, which will be booked in January 2023."

He added: "Failing to offer any appointments at all until next year seams to be a lack of service provision. When you walk into the surgery, it is empty, plenty of receptionists but not many doctors and no patients.

"I'm getting worried that if someone in the area had a serious problem or an underlining health condition, it's just not going to get noticed. I'm worried for myself, but I'm more worried that if someone gets seriously ill in the Valleys and cannot obtain an appointment."

MS for Rhondda, Buffy Williams, said: "As with all GP surgeries, access to appointments when needed and patient safety is paramount. Since the announcement earlier this week regarding the changes to the booking system, there has been an outpouring of concern and frustration regarding Forest View. Reading some of our residents' experiences at the surgery recently, I share these concerns and frustrations. It's absolutely vital that these changes are explained clearly by the surgery, and that patients with concerns are heard. I will be doing everything in my power to ensure this happens."

A mother, who wishes not to be named, claimed that her 19-year-old daughter had recently had complications after an abortion. She claimed that her daughter had been "going around in circles" between A&E and the surgery, as medical staff informed her that she needed to be referred by a GP to receive a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure.

She said: "I'm phoning the surgery at 8am and you can be number 50 in the queue - they then say there are no appointments left and to ring back at 1pm. Then at 1pm, they say there are no appointments left and to ring back at 8am the next day - it has been like this for two weeks now.

"We've been to A&E three times, waiting up to 10 hours, and they've given us tablets to stop her bleeding. But we need to get her a GP appointment to refer her to a gynaecologist to get a D&C procedure." She added that the ongoing situation has been stressful as they have not been able to get the issue resolved. She also stressed that her daughter has become isolated as she is unable to leave the house due to haemorrhaging.

Several other patients of the surgery have also complained of the appointment waiting times on social media, claiming that they have had to wait months for an appointment or had to resort to getting treatment from the pharmacy or hospital. One patient said that access to appointments needs to "get sorted" as "it’s not good enough". He added: "We live in one of the poorest regions in the UK with shameful medical services." However, some patients defended the surgery, stating that "many people attend the GP practice when they do not need to attend there" and GP appointments should be kept "for people who really need them".

In an online statement, a spokesperson for Forest View Medical Centre said: "Please accept our apologies for any confusion relating to the availability of routine appointments in the run up to and during the festive season. In previous years we have found that many more appointments booked in advance are not attended and result in a wasted opportunity for the patient to be seen.

"We have in recent years adjusted our appointment system to ensure that both routine and emergency appointments are made available, however, to ensure the maximum number of patients are seen these appointments have to be made available on the day they are required and not in advance.

"This year we are seeing ever increasing demands on the NHS and we at Forest View are not immune to these demands, as such we will be adopting the same approach as in recent years where both routine and emergency appointments will be available to book on the day that they are required.

"We would like to thank you for your understanding and ongoing support." Forest View Medical Centre have been contacted to expand further on their statement.

A spokesperson for Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board said: “While we cannot comment on individual cases, we would like to reassure people that we work closely with all of our Primary Care colleagues to improve patients’ experiences across and between the various services.

“We would also encourage anyone with concerns to actively engage and share their feedback directly with us so we can consider what improvements we can make to our services.”