‘Chaos’ as switch to care navigation telephone system at four Tendring GP surgeries causes delays

Colin Sargeant says the new system has been badly implemented. Picture: TENDRING DISTRICT COUNCIL

Colin Sargeant says the new system has been badly implemented. Picture: TENDRING DISTRICT COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

Patients ringing for an appointment at GP surgeries in Tendring are facing delays of up to an hour due to a “chaotic” shift to a new telephone system, it has been claimed.

Councillor Colin Sargeant raised the issue at a meeting of North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) on Tuesday and called on board members to address the problem.

During the meeting, Mr Sargeant said the implementation of the ‘care navigation’ scheme at Green Elms in Jaywick, Epping Close in Clacton-on-Sea, Frinton Road in Holland-on-Sea and Caradoc Surgery in Frinton-on-Sea had caused “chaos” and he had received repeated emails and phone calls from residents raising concerns.

The CCG commissions Anglian Community Enterprise (ACE) to run the four surgeries.

Under the new care navigation system, patients requesting an appointment are asked to share brief information about their problem over the phone so the call handler can direct them to the most appropriate professional, which could be a pharmacist or physiotherapist, for example.

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The scheme has been rolled out at practices all over the country and aims to free up the time of GPs, which are in short supply within the NHS, and to ensure patients receive the right care faster.

Speaking after the meeting, Essex county councillor Mr Sargeant said: “It’s a great system however locally they have not put enough telephone lines in, not enough care navigating staff and not enough medical staff.

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“So consequently residents are left waiting for their telephone call to be answered close on an hour rather than minutes.”

Mr Sargeant is also part of the Essex Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee and he criticised ACE for not consulting members before introducing the new system.

Jayne Hiley, director of operations at ACE, said this was not the sort of change that required deliberation with the committee.

She said the telephone answering function for the four surgeries had been centralised, but assured all patients would continue to be seen in their local practice.

“We have introduced these changes in order to improve patient experience and access,” Ms Hiley added.

“Historically patients were queuing up in all weathers, especially first thing in the morning, in order to secure an appointment.

“Whilst we know some patients have experienced longer telephone waits than we would wish with the new system, we are monitoring the situation daily and making improvements as we progress.

“The system may not yet be perfect but it is a big improvement on how it used to be.”

The CCG has agreed to facilitate a meeting between Mr Sargeant, patient participation groups and ACE to discuss the matter further.

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