Mother 'calls GP practice 507 times' for sick child with no answer

No one answering phone at NHS GP <i>(Image: Getty)</i>
No one answering phone at NHS GP (Image: Getty)

A mother said she tried to call her GP practice 507 times for her sick child, but could not get through.

This comes as customers of Whalebridge Practice complain of being unable to get an appointment.

‘Frustrated’ patients are told the best way to see a GP at The Whalebridge Practice is to call at 8am, but say phone lines are often engaged or not answered.

The mum said: “Since Covid, it's just got absolutely awful. You need help, so you go to a pharmacy and they're like you need to go through a GP, and I can't get through to my GP.

“You just go around in circles.”

“From 8 o'clock in the morning, I'm just sat there like just re-dialing, re-dialing. It's just constantly engaged or it rings and then they don't answer.

“You just can never get a hold of them.”

The mother tried a total of 507 times to call Whalebridge. Another shared on Facebook a screenshot of 376 “soul-destroying” attempts, while another claimed to have tried 1,505 times.

If customers do get through they face being told there are no appointments and they must call back tomorrow.

Unlike other surgeries, Whalebridge does not have an automated ‘queue’ to speak to a receptionist, instead relying on the line being available when you call.

“The system is shocking,” said the mother of two.

She was told by the practice they have just one phone, though the practice says it has “a number” of call handlers.

As well as the wait, she said the inability to get her sick child seen by a doctor is concerning.

She suggested the inability to get through to a GP could be having a knock-on effect on other services, such as increasing the demand on Great Western Hospital’s Urgent Treatment Centre.

The mother ended up getting help via 111. She said: “It's a shame because there are a few doctors there that I do fully trust.

“But the way things are going, do I trust my health or my kids' health in their hands right now? No. It doesn't leave me very confident at all.”

Meanwhile, she hopes to change surgeries but wonders: “Is it going to be the same thing there?”

A Whalebridge Practice spokesperson said:

“Helping patients to get the care they need as quickly as possible is very important to us, and we’re sorry to hear that some of our callers have had to wait longer than usual recently.

“We have a number of call handlers within the practice who work very hard to ensure patients are not left waiting for long periods of time, and we are actively looking at installing a new queuing system which will inform callers of their place in line.

“Like all GP practices, our phone lines are particularly busy first thing in the morning, and we would encourage all patients with non-urgent symptoms to call outside of these hours so that lines are available for those most in need of care.”