Concern over GP appointment delays for patients in Catterick Garrison

Harewood Medical Practice in Catterick Garrison.

Concerns have been raised about the delay patients are facing to get an appointment with a GP in Catterick Garrison.

But while a senior GP admits patients are seeing delays, he says steps are being taken to reduce the wait – and patients with minor ailments can help by contacting a pharmacy rather than their GP.

County councillor Helen Grant said she had been told by residents that they had to wait up to eight days to see a doctor.

“It doesn’t seem to matter that some are children,” Cllr Grant added.

The community leader said that at a a recent Garrison Area Partnership meeting, attendees were assured that there were no problems at the Harewood or the Colburn Health Centre.

“We have been assured by health care professionals that the increased numbers of houses and people can be coped with. I am seriously doubting that,” she said.

Cllr Grant said partnership members had been given a presentation indicating the likely numbers of new military personnel and dependants through to 2031.

“Whilst these new residents are most welcome the further impact, notwithstanding the proposed NHS/MOD facility, will be significant.

“I am urging dissatisfied patients to make their concerns known by contacting the health authority.”

In response to the concerns, Dr Stephen Wild, GY Partner at the Harewood Medical Practice said there were well-known mounting pressures on primary care services across the whole of the UK.

He said appointment demand had increased substantially in the last five years and many practices were struggling to keep pace with the pressures of work.

He added: “The proposed increase in the population of the Garrison is of concern to us, but we intend to address the expected demand through recruitment and new premises.”

Dr Wild said the company took over the contract at Harewood in April last year and were currently recruiting and adapting the service it provided to try and meet these demands.

“At the Harewood practice, there is a particularly high demand for urgent appointments and to this end, we have recently recruited an advanced nurse practitioner with extensive experience in minor ailments and minor injuries.

“We expect this to free up GP time to deal with more complex cases. We are also currently out to

advert for a further one and a half full time equivalent GPs.”

The doctor said they could often take hundreds of phone calls during the morning and operated a telephone triage system to meet demand.

Patients who feel their condition requires review within 48 hours are given a telephone review appointment usually within a few hours and a doctor will call them to discuss their condition.

If, after this discussion, the patient requires urgent review they will be seen, usually the same day but at the latest the next day.

If patients feel their condition can wait until the next routine appointment, they will be booked into this appointment.

Dr Wild added in his response to Cllr Grant: “Unfortunately, as you point out, these routine appointments are often a week or so in advance.

“I would like to stress the assessment of urgency is left with the patient, not the reception staff.”

He added: “Let me be clear, no patients who feel they need review within 48 hours are refused review and this review occurs the same day.

“If you can provide specific examples of where this has not happened, we would like to know and will investigate.”

The doctor said all this information has been publicised on the practice Facebook page and website.

“I would also like to note that many of the conditions we deal with via the telephone triage system could be quickly and adequately dealt with by the local pharmacist.

“Accessing this service would assist us in providing a more timely service to all the population we serve.

“Notwithstanding the points mentioned above, appointment availability is still limited.

“If we are successful in our recruitment strategy, this should improve and avoid the current delays for routine appointments, but I would like to assure you that no one who has a condition which needs to be reviewed urgently will be denied treatment.”

More than £400,000 is being spent updating Harewood Medical Practice. 

The work, which should be completed by Easter, will see facilities in the Richmond Road building improved with two new consulting rooms and a new reception area and waiting room for the practice’s 7,400 patients.