Elderly residents in Thurrock are being forced to make GP appointments online a councillor has revealed.
Speaking at a Thurrock full council meeting on Wednesday, Lee Watson said residents in her ward had no choice but to visit an NHS website and email a request for an appointment.
The Labour councillor for West Thurrock and South Stifford, said: “Purfleet on Thames health centre is managed by the Healthcare Resources Group. They have implemented a new policy requiring patients to schedule appointments by email. I’ve got some quite upset residents right now. It took place on November 6.
“Residents have to go onto the website and fill out a form to get an appointment. A lot of my residents can’t do that.”
Cllr Watson said GP availability had also been cut from four days a week to two and patients were being seen by a triage nurse.
Mark Coxshall, councillor responsible for health, adults’ health and community, said the matter was the responsibility of the NHS and not the council but he said: “That doesn’t take away that we need to challenge them on these things.
“I’m shocked that patients requiring appointments are having to email.”
Cllr Coxshall said he would raise the serious concerns with the council’s health and wellbeing board He added: “I think it’s completely inappropriate that patients are expected to email to book an appointment. That doesn’t make the service accessible at all. Some residents may not have access to emails and could be completely excluded from getting the healthcare they need.”
Aleksandra Mecan, Thurrock Alliance Director for Mid and South Essex Integrated Care Board said: “The NHS acknowledges challenges relating to primary care access across the country.
“In Thurrock we are actively working to recruit and retain health care professionals. We have already recruited over 75 additional members of staff who are supporting people in Thurrock GP practices.”
Ms Mecan added: “We have also extended the hours GP practices are open and supported investment in GP telephone systems to improve the way people can make appointments.
“Innovative new ways of delivering care with partners in health and social care are also helping to meet the evolving and increasing needs of the local population.”
A spokesperson for HCRG Care Group, which manages Purfleet Care Centre, said: “We introduced the online booking service, in line with NHS guidance, to offer patients a convenient and efficient way to contact us; however, patients that are unable to access services online can continue to book appointments over the phone or face-to-face if they wish.”