Dear Patients of Merton Medical Practice,
We are aware of the ongoing issues with our telephone lines and are working hard to try to resolve these for our patients. Please keep reading for further context on these issues and an update on how we are planning to fix them.
Prior to the pandemic, our surgery, like many others, used an analogue telephone system. This only allowed 6 active lines at any one time which meant that if we had 3 members of reception answering calls, only 3 doctors could call patients at the same time. When the 1st wave and lockdown hit, we followed National directives and switched to telephone triage appointments. With this increase in the volume of calls coming in and out of the surgery, we needed to change our telephone system swiftly and so we found a solution which we believed would work well for us and our patients.
After a few months it became apparent that some patients were experiencing issues such as very long wait times with calls going unanswered, lines cutting out and receiving voicemails when a doctor had tried calling. We have tried extensively to investigate and fix these issues, both ourselves and together with the telephone service provider, but unfortunately the issues remain ongoing.
We have now changed provider and are awaiting installation, a process which unfortunately takes some time as many other practices are doing the same. We ask for your patience and understanding while we carry out the switch. We understand that many of you have been left frustrated by the ongoing issues but we are confident that the new system will lead to a much improved experience in contacting us and booking appointments.
While the new service provider will fix the technical issues with our phone lines, our practice, like most other GP surgeries across the country, has experienced a significant increase in demand over the last few months. Across England, GP practices completed 4.8 million more consultations in March when compared to February, and almost 2 million more consultations when compared to March 2019, despite staff working very hard throughout the pandemic and with fewer GPs nationally. If it feels that it is taking longer for the phone to be answered or to get an appointment, it is likely due to this unprecedented level of demand.
We do offer the option of booking appointments online and would recommend that all our patients ensure that they have signed up to our online services, as well as using our practice website as many queries can be answered without the need for a doctor’s appointment.
We remain under a national directive to triage all appointment requests via telephone, and the recommendation to only book patients to be seen face to face if the issue cannot be dealt with over the phone. For a limited number of conditions we will be offering direct face to face appointments, and this will be bookable by reception only. Our Reception Team will be following specific instructions from the Clinical Team with regards to what conditions can be booked without telephone triage, so if they offer a telephone appointment it is because they are following clinical guidance. We will be opening our doors in the very near future, but this is only for patients that have been asked to attend the practice for an appointment, or to collect or drop off samples. Understandably there will be some restrictions on movement in the practice, and please do not attend the practice in order to book an appointment.
Thank you for your continued support and patience.
The Team at Merton Medical Practice.