Published: 06:00, 16 June 2021
| Updated: 15:37, 16 June 2021
Patients have launched a barrage of complaints against a doctors' surgery with some saying it has taken hundreds of attempts to get an appointment.
Others are moaning that it can take days to get through to reception at the Thorndike Medical Centre in Rochester.
In desperation, some patients are giving up and going to the A&E department at Medway Maritime Hospital for non-serious ailments.
If the line is not registering engaged, the operator says you are first in the queue, but callers are still left hanging on for long periods of time.
Mum Andrea Waite called more than 100 times to get a slot with her GP after becoming concerned about her eight-year-old daughter Milly.
Teacher Andrea, from Borstal, spotted an abnormal swelling on Milly's leg below her knee and immediately called the practice in Longley Road to get it checked out.
When she could not get through she dashed to the hospital where she was referred to MedOCC – Medway Oncall Care – which deals with urgent care problems when GP surgeries are closed.
An X-ray revealed a genetic bone condition and she is now awaiting an MRI scan.
Andrea said: "It's so frustrating. I went to hospital because what else could I have done?
"My daughter should not have had to spend five-and-a-half hours in hospital where they are already under pressure when she could have seen her doctor."
Many others have taken to social media to voice their concerns.
A Thorndike patient, posting on Facebook, said: "A few weeks back I called them, 125 attempts & no answer, then later 106 attempts with no reply, but always 1st in the queue.
"I rang the Thorndike 188 times today and still didn't get through."
"Dropped in for a prescription a couple of weeks ago, 3 on reception but none on the phone."
Another added: "115 attempts to get through then when I was first in the queue it was 58 minutes until it was answered."
Others reported problems with repeat prescriptions, which they had to chase and still took nearly a month to sort.
One particularly exasperated patient said: "They are absolutely dreadful it is frightening. I tried 133 times about a month ago for my partner. In the end and we just gave up, surely this is medical neglect."
"I rang the Thorndike 188 times today and still didn't get through," said another. "Engaged all the time."
Dr Navin Kumta, clinical chairman at NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, which oversees management of primary healthcare, including GP practices, blamed a rise in demand and the fact staff had been helping with the Covid vaccine rollout.
He said: “The increase in demand, as well as the huge support practice teams continue to give to the vaccination programme means that local practices are working harder than ever before to support their patients.
“We understand that people are experiencing difficulties accessing their GP surgery, and the frustrations that causes.
"We are working hard to make sure that we can continue to give the best service possible.
"General practice teams are employing different types of roles, such as advanced clinical practitioners who are specialists in managing long-term conditions and clinical pharmacists who can speak to people about their medications.
"General practice is a team effort, with a range of clinicians using their specialist skills so all patients get the care they need.”