SICK people in South Tyneside are waiting up to two weeks to get a doctor’s appointment, say councillors.
The claims emerged as GP surgeries in the borough came under scrutiny at South Tyneside Council .
Members of the council’s People Select Committees said some patients are having to wait up to two weeks for an appointment, and a medical experts labelled that “unacceptable”, saying anyone calling their local practice should be seen within 48 hours.
Labour councillor Ernest Gibson, who represents Whiteleas, said: “Have you ever tried to get a doctor’s appointment? Trying to get an appointment with a doctor, sometimes trying to get past the receptionist, you have to tell them more than what you have to tell the doctor, which I think is wrong. People are sitting about and you have to describe your symptoms. These issues need addressing.”
Committee chairman Coun John McCabe, Labour member for Hebburn South, said: “Over a number of years, this point has been raised in the council chamber about GP practices. The problem is you have 28 practices, some of them are very, very good, some of them are excellent, and some of them are very, very poor.
“A very fundamental starting point for anyone is their GP. Pharmacies are a good way to stop people going to these walk-in centres for basic things like diarrhoea and period pains.
“But pharmacies are privately owned. We don’t want privitisation here, we want a National Health Service.”
Coun Geraldine Kilgour, Labour for Fellgate and Hedworth, said she had concerns over too much emphasis being placed on the public accessing “self-care” at pharmacies.
She added: “People trust a physician, and we should have access to that physician. It is absolutely paramount that we have regular and easy access to those GPs – and the Jarrow walk-in centre is vital to that.”
Paul Madall, speciality registrar in public health for South Tyneside, said the policy was not about taking away access to GPs, but “empowering people”.
He said: “Self-care is about empowering people, not about saying it’s ‘down to you’.”
Dr Bill Hall, cancer lead for the borough’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), believes patients should have access to an appointment with their GP within 48 hours.
He said: “I visit each practice once a year. “There is a thing called the practice profile, which allows the practice to look at their figures and compare them with their peers. It’s awareness-raising.
“As for the access issue, the stories I hear about ‘you can’t get an appointment for two weeks,’ I think that is totally unacceptable.”
Dr David Hambleton, accountable officer at NHS South Tyneside CCG said: “We are aware that getting quick and easy access to GP appointments is a key concern among South Tyneside residents.
“GP practices offer a range of appointments flexibly across the day, and the CCG is working alongside both practices and pharmacies to ensure that the range of options to receive healthcare, or talk to a healthcare professional, is maximised and well-publicised within the community”.