People in part of Kent say they are going weeks without Royal Mail deliveries, with hospital patients missing appointments, birthdays going unmarked, and important letters going AWOL.
The “appalling” service has seen a Gills fan receive his season ticket three months after the first game kicked off.
MP Tracey Crouch is now demanding an urgent meeting with postal service bosses to fix the problem before the busy Christmas period gets underway.
Patient Jane Kingsford from Twydall, near Gillingham, received a letter about an important medical test at a London hospital more than a week after her appointment had been.
She said: “Luckily, they use an app and email appointments too so I was able to make it just fine, however, the letters arrived with appointment information on over a week after the day.
“Had there been no other form of contact I’d have missed these critical scans.
“It also caused confusion because, while I knew I had appointments via the app, I had no details of where. I had to present myself at the hospital's main reception and ask them to find out for me where I had to go as I had no clue.
“I just thought ‘what a joke Royal Mail is’ now that we cannot depend on it at all as we did in the past.”
Janice Frost, of Lower Fant Road in Maidstone, only found out she had been booked in for an important doctor’s appointment when she received a letter to reschedule it.
She said: “It’s frustrating really. I have several letters I’m waiting for.
“I was lucky it was cancelled in the end otherwise I would’ve missed it and be put to the back of the queue.”
Retired military man Anthony Morris decided to find out for himself what was going on when he realised he hadn’t had post for four days at his home in Lunsford Lane, Larkfield
The 68-year-old said: “I had been waiting for medication, but it hadn’t turned up.
“I decided to take a trip to the Snodland delivery office. I walked in, pushed the bell, and a nice lady came. I said ‘I have one question and would like an honest answer: what’s happening with the post?’
“She said ‘we’re losing staff left, right, and centre, we can’t recruit’, and I thanked her for her honesty. I left with five packages and three or four different letters.
“I feel sorry for the staff, I do. I know what it’s like to do a hard job and I will say the postal service is a hard job.
“But if Royal Mail can’t get it sorted then we will keep suffering.”
Mr Morris now visits the Sortmill Road sorting office every other day to pick up his post, but he is aware not everyone has that option.
He continued: “I’m fortunate – I’m retired I’ve done my bit and served the country so I can go down to get my post, but the opening times are 8am to 10am. What use is that to people who are working?”
Sorting offices are typically open for a maximum or four hours – two in the morning and two in the afternoon – and are fully closed on Sundays.
When KentOnline asked people living in west Kent if they were experiencing issues with their post, hundreds of people came forward to share their experiences.
Medway reader Sasha Robertson said: “I sent my mum her birthday card back in October and she still hasn't received it. Silly me put money in it too, which I wouldn't normally do.”
On the same thread, Emma Hill wrote: “This is why I won't be posting Christmas cards again. Last year we received some after the new year. It's not worth the postage cost.
“Maybe I should've done them and posted them in September – they may have turned up before Christmas then.”
One cancer patient told us they’d missed a CT scan due to a late letter.
Sara Chandler said where she lives, in Rainham, hasn’t had any post in around a week. She added: “It was my birthday yesterday and I didn’t get any cards including one that my son had sent me.”
Michelle Mattocks added: “The majority of Rainham has post once every three weeks. We have been told that if we want our post to go to the sorting office to collect it ourselves.”
Footie fan James Cruttwell said: “I got my Gills season ticket delivered last week…was meant to be with me start of August.”
Garry Cuddon, of Kings Hill, added: “ We are lucky to get mail once a week which means I have missed subscriptions that are sometimes invalid by the time they arrive.
“I don't really know why Royal Mail are having problems but one postie has told me that they have staff shortages and can't replace the staff they lose. This does not bode well for Christmas.”
Despite the issues, many people were quick to defend their hard-working posties.
Donna Head commented: “It’s not the postman’s fault, it's management getting rid of staff and making delivery rounds bigger that they can’t be finished in the time given to do them.”
Casey Collyer said: “Our postman is great although our deliveries are not daily anymore but that's not his fault.
“Royal Mail is moving regular postmen to different rounds which means they have to learn new routes.”
Earlier this year Tracey Crouch, MP for Aylesford and Chatham, intervened when people in Snodland were without post for several weeks.
Now she is looking to hold urgent talks with the company again.
She said: “Our posties work exceptionally hard, largely during unsocial hours, but the system is conspiring against them, and therefore negatively impacting on residents receiving mail.
“Worryingly constituents have been in touch about missed hospital appointments, important letters and children’s birthday cards. I have asked Royal Mail for an urgent meeting.
“As we enter the busiest time of year for the postal service, people want confidence that what they pay to send will indeed be delivered on time.”
MP for Tonbridge and Malling, Tom Tugendhat, has also contacted the postal service, concerned about delays.
He said: “Deliveries have been erratic for quite some time, especially in the Malling area.
“I have approached Royal Mail on behalf of a number of residents from different towns and villages concerned about unreliable post.
“I’d be keen to hear from as many people affected as possible so I can build up a picture of the areas most badly affected.”
Earlier this month, regulators Ofcom fined Royal Mail £5.6 million for failing to meet its targets this financial year.
It is required to deliver 93% of first-class mail within one working day and 98.5% of second-class mail within three working days.
Its figures were 73.7% and 90.7%, respectively.
The service was, however, hampered by industrial action, extreme weather and a runway closure at London Stansted.
The director of enforcement at Ofcom, Ian Strawhorne, said: “Royal Mail’s role in our lives carries huge responsibility and we know from our research that customers value reliability and consistency.
“Clearly, the pandemic had a significant impact on Royal Mail’s operations in previous years. But we warned the company it could no longer use that as an excuse, and it just hasn’t got things back on track since.
“The company’s let consumers down, and this fine should act as a wake-up call – it must take its responsibilities more seriously. We’ll continue to hold Royal Mail to account to make sure it improves service levels.”
It has been speculated the company had opted to prioritise parcel deliveries over post, but Ofcom found no evidence of that and Royal Mail denied it.
The regulator did, however, concede that higher management had little control over decision-making at local sorting offices.
“The company’s let consumers down, and this fine should act as a wake-up call – it must take its responsibilities more seriously...”
A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “Throughout Kent, our teams are working extremely hard to ensure a consistent and reliable service to households this Christmas.
“Our employees are committed to serving their communities and we are proud of the work they are doing to sort, deliver and collect mail this festive period.
“We can confirm we have mail being delivered to homes daily with the vast majority arriving on time. If delays occur, we have dedicated teams in place to take immediate action.
“We have also hired 16,000 seasonal workers, increased our vehicle numbers and boosted our operational capacity with extra parcel sorting sites to manage demand during this peak period.”