Residents' concerns over waiting times at GP practice which lost doctor to Covid

·2-min read
Waiting times - Councillor Alan Dear (top) has raised residents concerns about the practice which lost Dr Habib Zaidi to Covid in 2020
Waiting times - Councillor Alan Dear (top) has raised residents concerns about the practice which lost Dr Habib Zaidi to Covid in 2020

BOSSES at a GP practice where residents are facing long waits for consultations are pleading for understanding after struggling to deal with the death of a senior practitioner.

Eastwood Group Practice has come under fire from Belfairs councillors who say residents are complaining of long waiting times for appointments and difficulties seeing their doctors face-to-face.

In defence, practice bosses have outlined the extremely difficult circumstances faced over the last two years.

Eastwood Group runs three branches, Belfairs, Kent Elms and Rayleigh Road, following a merger in March 2020.

The pre-planned merger was pushed through during the first week of the UK’s first coronavirus lockdown.

And tragedy struck, just four days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the lockdown on March 23, the group’s senior practitioner Dr Habib Zaidi passed away – becoming the first doctor in the UK to die from Covid-19.

With about 5,000 extra patients as a result of the merger, increasing its total to near 16,000, the practice has struggled to meet demand since.

A spokesman said: “I am sure you can appreciate it has been extremely challenging for the NHS over the last two years and we have had particularly difficult circumstances here.

“It really was a very difficult period, to lose our most senior practitioner in the middle of a complex merger.”

Councillor Alan Dear will meet with practice bosses on May 24 to discuss residents’ concerns.

“We are being told they cannot get through to the practice by phone,” Mr Dear said.

“They just can’t get an appointment to see a doctor and a lot of our ward residents are elderly and need to be able to access their GP.”

Councillor Jack Warren says one resident has reported waiting five weeks for a phone consultation.

The practice spokesman said: “Staff have worked very hard through the pandemic to deliver the vaccination programme, with many staff working weekends to manage backlog of demand.

“We have always continued to offer face to face appointments and have in fact held more appointments than ever before over the last year.”

“The practice has an improvement plan in place and will be meeting with councillors to discuss this."

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