MP for North Swindon

Justin Tomlinson MP

GP Hub Update - 19 January


As many of you will know, I have published a series of detailed GP updates on my website and on this group since the problems with the hub telephone systems first started to appear a few months ago.

These updates include a detailed look at the context behind the changes, as well as information on the services. If you haven't seen these or would like more information, please get in touch - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I'd be happy to share this with you.

After lots of frank discussions towards the end of last year, steps were taken to address concerns – more admin staff (and crucially call handlers) were hired, more clinical staff were hired, and other aims were set (i.e. new website, more appointments available etc.) My office has continued to be in very regular contact, including over the Christmas period. By the end of November, we had started to see improvements. Calls were being answered much more quickly and residents were reporting improvements.

HOWEVER, as we can see from this group this month, it is VERY frustrating to see that some of the old complaints regarding long waits on the telephone lines are back.

I have immediately raised these with both the CCG & IMH, and have had recent meetings on Friday with Healthwatch. I have received the following explanation from the Chief Executive of IMH:

"As you are aware the team recruited several new call handlers before Christmas and significant improvements in call waiting times were visible. However, after Christmas the team have been hit with sickness, for example on Monday 14th January, 4 call handlers called in sick (usual winter illnesses). This clearly impacts hugely on the whole service, as staff are pulled from elsewhere to ensure the phones are answered, this included the senior management team. We continue to monitor and manage the calls but we have experienced a couple of days where the demand has far outweighed the capacity."

I am due to speak with the Chief Executive on Monday as I am not convinced that this provides enough reassurances that people will be able to get through on the phones in a reasonable time.

This sort of hub model (which eases the burden of phone calls, appointment management and back office functions to release GP’s time to undertake their roles as GPs) is being done elsewhere in Swindon, yet we are not seeing any of the same problems regarding the telephone system as we are here in North Swindon. Therefore there really is no excuse for them not to get this telephone issue sorted once and for all.

As I have reiterated before, I really do need those people who have had bad experiences to contact me with as many details as possible. It is only with direct examples of these bad experiences that I am able to prove that urgent improvements are necessary. I cannot take people's feedback from this Facebook Group due to data rules, so please do contact me directly so I can get it raised.

Where there are complaints which relate to other issues including the prescription service, or adult social care, I will continue to raise these through the normal channels. We must focus on those things which IMH are directly responsible for, otherwise they will shut down on any constructive dialogue, as they feel as though they are being blamed for things which are historic and do not relate to them (though it’s hardly surprising that patients are blaming them for everything, especially given their initial lack of communication with patients).

Let me reassure residents that I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that these issues are resolved. I will continue to do so by working with and pushing those who can directly bring about those improvements.

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