Published: 06:00, 13 December 2019
A grandmother who waited days to get an appointment for her sick grandchild was told she could only be assessed "over the phone," it is claimed.
Denise Highmoor, from Gravesend, says she is regularly placed on hold for hours by The Forge Surgery, in Northfleet.
She was told her eight-year old granddaughter would have to wait four weeks to see a doctor.
Alternatively the grandparent could call up at 8am in the hope of securing a slot on the day.
Grace, who suffers from asthma, was sent home by the school nurse with a suspected chest infection.
This then progressed into a "barking" cough and the pupil began to experience trouble breathing.
Mrs Highmoor rang the surgery at 8am as advised but claims the receptionist refused to book her a "face-to-face appointment".
Instead she was was told the doctor would only be able to assess her granddaughter "over the phone".
She challenged the reception staff on this who she says were very unsympathetic towards her.
"How can a doctor assess her over the phone if he doesn't see her?" she asked.
"With children you never know, they are up one minute and down the next.
"When there are children involved I think they should take it more seriously."
Mrs Highmoor hurried her granddaughter to the A&E department at Darent Valley Hospital but arrived to find it was "choc-a-block".
"Lots of people had come up because they could not get appointments at the doctors," she claimed.
After a long wait she says doctors assessed her in the corridor.
They diagnosed Grace with croup, a viral condition which causes swelling around the vocal chords and prescribed medicines to treat it.
She praised the work of the doctors and nurses on shift who she recalls were visibly struggling with the sheer number of people.
"The doctors were brilliant, it was so packed and the nurses were apologising," she said.
The Forge Surgery was recently subject to a merger which saw it and two others - Gateway Medical and White Horse Surgery - amalgamate into one practice.
Now all GPs, nurses, and reception staff are working together under the Springhead Health banner, serving more than 6000 patients.
Director Andy Doyle issued an apology to patients online last month following complaints about its services.
In a post on the provider's Facebook he said they had been operating under "enormous strain", receiving upwards of 12000 telephone calls per week.
"We are aware of the frustration experienced by our patients recently," he said.
"The merger was the only way the three practices could survive. Each practice used to work in different ways and integration will take time.
"All of our staff are exhausted but we are trying our best."
The 54 year-old doctor said the surgery had also been struggling to recruit staff and it was "almost impossible to recruit clinicians".
He said: "We are understaffed to the extent of three GPs and two nurse practitioners."
Last month two doctors resigned from their posts and the board of directors.
Practice manager Sandra Bodle also stepped down having only been appointed in June.
Spokesman for NHS Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley Clinical Commissioning Group, Stella Jones said all staff were working hard to provide care to those who need it.
She said: "'All areas of the NHS across the country, including GP surgeries, face added pressure during the winter months when demand is greatest.
"Patients are advised to consider all options, including self care and local pharmacists, who can offer expert advice on a range of minor ailments and illnesses.'
The surgery was contacted for comment.