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Sittingbourne patients' anguish as hundreds of calls to GP surgeries go unanswered


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Sittingbourne patients have launched a barrage of criticism towards doctor’s surgeries after complaining they’ve been left on hold for hours and forced to make hundreds of calls a day just to get through to reception.

Some have warned that the council’s plans to build thousands of extra homes in the coming years and ignoring infrastructure needs will be a disaster for the borough.

Green Porch Close Surgery opened in Milton in February
Green Porch Close Surgery opened in Milton in February

At the front of the firing line for angry patients was the newly opened Green Porch Medical Centre in Milton Regis.

The practice, in Green Porch Close, launched in February, amalgamating practices at Lakeside Medical Centre in Kemsley and Milton Regis High Street and taking on 9,000 patients in total.

Christine Palmer, of Station Road, Newington, helps keep an eye on her elderly neighbour Bill Taulbut who lives on his own and suffers with cellulitis and joint pain.

The office administrator, who formerly worked in health and social care, revealed she has had two-hour long waits on the phone to try and get hold of the Green Porch Medical Centre.

The 60-year-old has even rung the centre hundreds of times a day without being able to get through.

Newington residents Christine Palmer and Bill Taulbut are fed up with not being able to reach his doctor
Newington residents Christine Palmer and Bill Taulbut are fed up with not being able to reach his doctor

She said: “Bill is in his 70s and I noticed his legs were swelling and red, so I tried for hours to get through to the doctor but couldn’t.

“I ended up having to ring 111 and a district nurse had some antibiotics sent out. The dreadful GP service in Swale is having a knock on effect on others, such as 111 and A&E.

“It could cost lives. 111 is supposed to be a backup service for emergencies and people are going to them where their GP should be sorting it.”

“It has a knock on effect on the rest of the services. It’s about time people start taking notice how serious GP services are being affected in Swale, we have one of the worst patient to GP ratios in the whole country.”

She took to Facebook to share her concerns over the medical facilities and was met with hundreds of comments complaining about similar issues.

Green Porch Medical Centre in Green Porch Close, Milton Regis, Sittingbourne (48901116)
Green Porch Medical Centre in Green Porch Close, Milton Regis, Sittingbourne (48901116)

She added: “One man said he had rung the GP 300 times but didn’t get an answer.

“Ever since the services were amalgamated they can’t cope with the number of patients, but the council is still planning on building thousands of homes in Sittingbourne and Sheppey.”

“There’s no way they will be able to handle that many new people.”

Arranging Bill’s Covid vaccination was so difficult, MP Gordon Henderson had to get involved. Christine complained to NHS England about the long waits and Bill has been offered new surgeries in Gillingham and Iwade.

She said: “I had to ring up the GP multiple times a week from February until April to arrange his first vaccine and then for the second one it was so much hassle we had to ask our MP Gordon Henderson to help Bill out, which he did and he managed to get his jab done quickly.”

Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP, Gordon Henderson stepped in to help
Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP, Gordon Henderson stepped in to help

The former care home manager says she understands how the pandemic has affected services, but is worried elderly people like Bill are being forgotten about and will slip through the cracks.

Lesley Martin was a patient at Lakeside before it changed to Green Porch. She slammed the service, saying her husband was forced into Medway Hospital after the surgery failed to answer calls. The 28-year-old said: “Since they’ve moved to their new premises the service has been disgraceful.

“People are queueing at Medway for issues doctors could resolve. My husband ended up in the hospital with a life threatening issue when his tonsillitis turned into glandular fever.

“We tried ringing them 200 times and even went into the surgery two days before he was in hospital and staff were just inside laughing.”

Mrs Martin revealed she’s also concerned about how the number of homes will affect the GPs.

She added: “I have no idea how they’re going to cope with more houses. We need more doctors, schools and infrastructure.”

Read more: All the latest news from Sittingbourne

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