Residents say lack of GP appointments and hospital waiting times are not good enough

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Residents living across Essex, Southend and Thurrock have said there needs to be better access to GP appointments and waiting times are unacceptable.

A survey conducted by health service watchdog Healthwatch shows that people living across South Essex share similar frustrations with most agreeing that waiting times need to be reduced and complaining of difficulties in getting GP appointments.

The survey completed by 618 people aged primarily between 55 and 64, shows that 41 per cent believed waiting times are “slow or very slow” and a further 28 per cent rated them as just “okay”.

Just 19 per cent rated wait times as “fast”.

Residents also complained of difficulty getting access to GPs due to limited appointments and then they did manage to get an appointment, communication became an issue with health professional giving inconsistent opinions.

Some who were referred to hospitals said that their GP had also failed to communicate with the hospital.

A report published ahead of Southend Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board meeting next week notes: “At times of diagnosis, the waiting time and problems receiving appointments for referral exacerbates anxiety and potentially progression of condition.

“This was a theme that ran through nearly all statements asked within the survey around dissatisfaction of appointments, and mentioned often.

“This was not restricted to just GP appointments, but consultants, procedures and additional assessments.”

Other issues raised in the survey show that a total of 80 per cent of people said they feel they need some or a lot of support from the NHS to stay health, particularly in relation to information, and 21 per cent felt that care support following a diagnosis was “difficult or very difficult”.

Claire Hankey, director of communications and engagement at the Mid and South Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) said: “Understanding the views of our population will help us to further explore ideas such as the smarter use of technology, providing care in different settings closer to home and support the partnership to seek ways to reduce health inequalities.

“Alongside a system wide Service User Advisory Group which reports directly to the Partnership Board, we are also developing a Citizen’s Panel to support us to research and understand the views of a demographically representative sample of the population.”

She added that the findings will “continue to inform the thinking” in the STP’s planning.

The health authority is currently looking to implement a significant overhaul of services across mid and south Essex. They claim it will place a priority on prevention and simplify referral routes from GPs to other support services. Hospitals will also work together to deliver more specialised care.

However, these plans have come under fire from councillors in Southend and Thurrock who unsuccessfully called on the secretary of state to agree changes need to be made.

The survey will be discussed further at a Health and Wellbeing meeting on Wednesday, December 4.

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]