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Gordon Henderson MP challenges Government over difficulty of getting a GP appointment in Sittingbourne and Sheppey

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The MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey tangled with the Under-Secretary of State for Patient Safety and Primary Care in the House of Commons today.

Gordon Henderson MP used the Department for Health and Social Care questions session to raise the ongoing problem of securing GP appointments in Sittingbourne and on the Island.

Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP, Gordon Henderson
Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP, Gordon Henderson

He asked the Minister, Maria Caulfield, what recent steps had been taken to help ensure that everyone in Sittingbourne and Sheppey had access to a GP.

She said: "The Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group has informed us that all practices in the area have open lists and are accepting new patients.

"It has also informed us that practices in Sittingbourne and Sheppey are being prioritised for support to help them manage the high levels of demand they are currently facing."

But Mr Henderson said he had been "misled" by the CCG.

He said: "All the GPs in the area are oversubscribed and people are finding it very difficult to get an appointment with their GP, even including a virtual appointment."

The Under Secrtary of State Maria Caulfield
The Under Secrtary of State Maria Caulfield

He said: "Indeed, some patients struggle even to speak to a receptionist, because the phones are engaged for hours on end.

"I understand that the NHS is planning to give GPs an upgrade of their telephone systems, but such upgrades will be of no use whatever unless doctors have the resources needed to recruit and train additional receptionists to answer the phones.

"What assurances are there that GPs will get those resources?"

Mrs Caulfield said; "We recognise the difficulty that patients have had in particular with telephone access and GPs have fed in that phone lines have been busier than ever.

"That is why the Secretary of State has addressed the issue in two ways: the availability of the cloud-based telephone system that GPs and primary care networks can be a part of, which will help to build their telephone capacity; and the £250 million winter access fund, which GPs can use to either recruit more telephone receptionists and train up existing telephone receptionists or build up more resources."

More receptionists are needed
More receptionists are needed

Mr Henderson later described Mrs Caulfield's response as "less than satisfactory."

But the Minister did offer to meet Mr Henderson privately to discuss the issue further.

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