Residents of are calling for clarity from the NHS over the future of their GP services after being told it was “not at all likely” open access surgeries would ever restart.
Parish councils in the Upper Dales are set to meet to discuss concerns over the Central Dales Practice, which has surgeries in Aysgarth and Hawes and serves about 4,250 patients across a 500sq mile area.
The extraordinary meeting is being called following the practice issuing a statement on Facebook dismissing “a rumour circulating” that its surgeries were closing.
The post stated: “Rumours like this can be very damaging and we find it upsetting that someone would want to cause panic in our lovely community.”
However, residents said they had not heard any claim the surgeries were closing, but were concerned about GP services after the practice manager told its patient participation group about a doctor leaving and that future open access surgeries were highly unlikely.
A report of the patient group’s latest meeting states: “Patients who need an emergency appointment must be available to receive a return phone call from a GP. The GPs will try three times, but this is a most inefficient use of their time.”
One elderly resident, whose name is withheld, said many older people were struggling with contacting doctors and having to speak to GPs on the phone, and had issues about having to divulge their health problems to receptionists.
He said: “There’s a lot of us that don’t understand why it can’t go back to how it was, there was nothing wrong with it. When people say there’s no problem that’s a typical excuse of people in trouble. It’s gone from one of the best practices in the country to one that folks are very reluctant to contact.
“Many people in Hawes are very upset with how it has gone. I have been to hospital recently and they asked me why my GP hadn’t picked it up. The reason they hadn’t picked it up is because you can’t get an appointment for a while.”
Although some GP practices in the Richmondshire area are offering open access surgeries to patients, others said due to social distancing requirements it was no longer considered safe to do so.
A spokesman for North Yorkshire clinical commissioning group declined to respond to questions over whether patients should be consulted over the apparent move to end open access surgeries or whether its practices were expected to offer open access surgeries.
He stated: “We are aware of rumours in circulation, but can confirm there are no issues around GP staffing or access to urgent and non-urgent appointments at the Central Dales practice.”
Jane Ritchie, who leads the practice’s patient group, said the practice’s small waiting rooms used to get crowded during open access surgeries, making it difficult for patients to maintain their distance from one another.
She added: “People did like the feeling that you could go in at nine o’clock and sit there for two hours and know that you would be seen, that was reassuring. However, the practice manager did not think that would ever happen again.
“If people need to be seen they are being seen by their doctor or the advanced nurse practitioner. If something isn’t so urgent then they might have to wait a couple of days, but I’m not aware of anyone awaiting anything like a week.
“People don’t like telling the receptionist what the matter is, but if you go to A&E you have to say what the matter is.”