What it is like to be registered at Norfolk's busiest GP

Elmham Surgery. Picture: Ian Burt

The busiest practice in the Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area is Elmham Surgery, - Credit: Ian Burt

Patients registered to the busiest GP in Norfolk have shared their frustration as they struggle to access health care.

But the team at the practice has assured them staff are "working tirelessly" to cope with the demands of being the most called-upon GP in Norfolk.

On July 8, we revealed that Elmham Surgery has 6,173 patients for each GP. Since then, people in the community have stepped forward to share their experiences of the practice.

One person, who did not wish to be named said they are supposed to be monitored in a heart clinic, and required two blood tests a year. The individual claims they have not had a test for the past two years.

Their partner also has complex health needs, but the last appointment they had was eight months ago, over the phone.

After injuring themselves, rather than trying to get in contact with the GP, they took themselves straight to A&E to have it assessed.

In the case of Elmham, there are six doctors at the practice but its hours only add up to the equivalent of 1.6 full-time GPs, dealing with a total of 9,877 patients on the practice’s books.

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“I am not blaming them, the volunteers and the practice nurses are doing the best they can, and the vaccine rollout has been incredible,” they said.

“I have tried to contact the practice manager, but there is no one to complain to, it's a catalogue of frustration.

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“I don't know why the GPs are not putting the hours in, but something needs to change as there is no primary care around here.

“I feel more anger about this situation, for my partner they just cry with frustration.”

A spokesperson for Elmham Group of Practices said: “The Partners at Elmham Group of Practices are incredibly proud of the dedication and professionalism of the staff at the surgery.

“We know that demand for primary care across the country has never been higher. Phone lines are busy due to the exceptional levels of demand at this time. Patients can also submit queries to the surgery via our website."

Like other settings, the practice has occasionally been affected by positive Covid-19 cases and the requirement to isolate at times. These sudden occurrences sometimes create the requirement to change the phone message to keep patients informed.

A third of GP appointments were held over the phone in July in Norfolk and Waveney, up from 10pc bef

Patients have struggled to get appointments at the Elmham Surgery. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Another patient, who does not wish to be named, also share their experience.

They said the issue started over the last year since they "stopped having phone calls to book appointments twice a day".

They tried to get an appointment in April 2021. They had their husband and mum call on their behalf in May, but neither could get an appointment. They complained to the practice manager on June 10, before finally getting a telephone appointment on June 18.

A few days before they got their appointment, they had attempted to change surgeries, but were unable to secure a place.

They are suffering from a problem in their foot which they said: was causing pain, leaving them "unable to do exercise and in a low mood" due to the issue.

“I’m frustrated that I can’t access healthcare. In the end, I gave up and just lived with being in pain.

“My children and I are struggling to access healthcare.

“The nearest walk-in centre is 40 minutes away which is not practical when you work and childcare is 10 minutes from your house.”

The Practices spokesperson added: “Throughout this pandemic the doctors, nurses, pharmacists and support staff at the surgery have worked tirelessly in very challenging circumstances, including staff sickness and isolation. In line with published guidelines, they moved quickly to ensure the safety of patients and staff by delivering care by telephone and video triage consultations where possible, and face to face appointments for those who required it.

“We would like to reassure patients that we remain open for them and will continue to strive for excellent clinical care for all of our patients.”

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