‘It’s better protected than Fort Knox’

A person holding a mobile phone displaying the NHS app – Kirsty O’Connor /PA In

A person holding a mobile phone displaying the NHS app - Kirsty O'Connor /PA

A person holding a mobile phone displaying the NHS app – Kirsty O’Connor /PA

In response to new NHS guidance that sees doctors told to discourage patient appointments in person and promote the use of virtual consultations, Telegraph readers have shared their concerns that vulnerable patients are struggling to get help.

Readers described their difficulties in using online booking systems and their desperation after struggling to even secure a telephone consultation with their GP. Their concerns echo those of the Royal College of GPs, who fear the latest measures have gone too far and have called for remote consultations to be overhauled.

Read on for Telegraph readers on their experience with virtual and telephone appointments with their GP and share your own experience in the comments section below.

‘Online booking systems make a mockery of our NHS’

@David W:

“I am pretty online savvy but I find that our GP surgery is better protected than Fort Knox. The whole situation is a farce and is potentially dangerous.

“As an example, I had to see a practice nurse who told me, “you need an appointment and I can see that there are lots of spaces.” I went to reception and asked for an appointment but was told, “we can’t do that you have to book online.”

“It is an absolute farce and makes a mockery of our GPs and NHS. It needs to change.”

‘It took 30 minutes to get through by telephone and 24 hours to be seen’

@Martin S:

“My father recently had an infection. After an initially satisfactory response to an online report he was prescribed antibiotics. Later he deteriorated and I asked for a home visit at around 4pm one afternoon. Had he continued to deteriorate he might have been dead before they visited 24 hours later.

“By the time they visited, he had begun to recover so the visit was not needed. It took around half an hour to get through by telephone and the online system only takes new reports in the mornings.”

‘How can the elderly go online?’

@Mario C:

“I have tried to book an appointment, but after 15-22 telephone calls the call gets answered, only for me to be told to go online.

“How can the elderly, who may have limited IT skills or sometimes have no computers, go online? They might have a mobile telephone, but they may not know how to download and use apps.”

‘I am disgusted’

@Sheila W:

“I am 76 and I have had several experiences of fainting recently, including a fall. I found it impossible to get a face-to-face appointment.

“I eventually saw a cardiologist privately and I have had a heart monitor implanted in my chest. I am disgusted with the service provided by my local surgery and many locals feel the same.”

‘Not satisfactory’

@Anthony T:

“I contacted my doctor using the EConsult online facility. I received a reply within 24 hours. As a result, I then tried to make a telephone appointment with the same doctor. I tried this three times until 8:30am and was told the doctor was fully booked up.

“I am now awaiting a telephone appointment with another doctor from the surgery. It is not satisfactory as far as I am concerned.”

‘A GP transformed my life 8 years ago, I doubt that would happen today’

@Chris K:

“I got to see my GP about a painful toe. We got talking and she realised I was chronically depressed and suicidal about various personal misfortunes. She prescribed an antidepressant which has transformed my life for the better. That was eight years ago.

“Today I doubt if the same would happen, and I may very well not have made it to 2021. I thank that GP every day – she took the time and care to really fix me.”

‘Calls get disconnected’

@Richard A:

“Our surgery opens at 8am so we have to call to make a telephone consultation from then. We have to listen to a lengthy message about Covid before being given a menu to select from. You’re then advised that the call can’t be taken at this time (presumably because of the number of calls in the queue) and the line is disconnected.

“You have to repeat the process a dozen times or more. If you do get to speak to the receptionist all the appointments for the day have gone and it’s not possible to make an appointment for another day.”

‘Why can private GPs provide face-to-face services, but not the NHS?’

@Geoffrey T:

“In February of this year I experienced extreme stomach pains. I requested a face-to-face consultation, but I could only get a phone consultation, which wasn’t acceptable.

“However, I decided to contact a private GP and got a face-to-face appointment that day. I was given a thorough examination of my problem.

“If you’re prepared to pay, you can get an appointment to see a doctor quickly. All the same Covid precautions were taken, so why can’t the NHS doctors provide the same face-to-face service?”

‘I was told to see a nurse but had to settle for a phone call’

@Wendy W:

“I take HRT and I have been discouraged from continuing this nearly every time I have had a check up with a nurse to ensure my blood pressure and weight were in reasonable parameters, before they reluctantly issue a repeat prescription.

“During the pandemic, I was told I had to see the nurse, but this turned out to be a phone call. I was asked what my blood pressure was but I have no means of checking myself. This was brushed aside and the result is three more months of HRT.”

‘If I can see my dentist, why can’t I see my GP?’

@Helen C:

“Prior to the pandemic, my surgery was very good. I could get an appointment with my preferred GP when needed.

“When lockdown was announced, I received a call cancelling an appointment, with no offer of telephone support.

“Now when trying to phone, I can’t get an appointment with my preferred GP so I feel there is no continuity of care. It is a phone call only with a faceless GP, the interaction is lacking.

“If I can have a root filling from my dentist why can’t I see a GP?”

‘Palpably obvious things are missed’

@Laura L:

“My husband is a consultant. He’s been frustrated by the problems that a lack of GP appointments are causing hospitals. Patients turn up with end stage heart failure, having been misdiagnosed as smoking related chest infections.

“Online GPs can’t pick up signs so palpably obvious things are missed. They’re also referring nonsense to A&E as they can’t see via Zoom that it isn’t serious.

“Hospital staff are having their time wasted with worried patients and minor ailments.”

Have you struggled to book a GP appointment? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below.

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