After suffering from an unexplained lump in his thigh and making repeated calls up to 70 times, Paul Baxter said he was prescribed antibiotics several times by a nurse before he was finally able to see a GP about the problem. The 44-year-old was so frustrated at not being able to speak to a GP for a personal check-up that he considered going private. But without a doctor’s referral, he couldn’t see a specialist.
He finally saw a doctor this month and was prescribed treatments that he said are helping. But he’s furious that he had to fight for more than a year to be seen by a doctor. Mr Baxter said the practice has become “broken” since it merged with Eskbridge, forming the largest practice in Lothians with 19,000 patients. He said it was so bad he was “scared” for his pregnant wife.
Mr Baxter told the Evening News: “I had a mothball and my pharmacist was appalled that I had been given several rounds of antibiotics without having spoken to every doctor. It was amazing. The office is packed with people trying to get appointments, but the day I finally went to see a doctor last week, there was no one in the waiting room.
“We were afraid my wife would be stuck at Riverside. She had a urinary tract infection some time ago and ended up getting a prescription from NHS 24. I am now beyond relieved that she is undergoing another operation. I can’t imagine what it must be like not being able to get an appointment, especially if you have a baby or small child. I couldn’t have lived with risking the health of my wife and baby with this place. I’ve called over 70 times and never got through. It took 18 months to finally get an appointment.”
But since the couple managed to get her registered at a practice at her old address, Mr Baxter said he was “more than relieved”. It comes after the Evening News reported how an OAP, who had been ill with bronchitis for a month, gave up visiting a GP at the practice after making more than 120 calls.
Local MSP Colin Beattie called the practice earlier this month and said there were “no excuses” for delays in rolling out improvements. An independent review made a number of recommendations for addressing issues, including changing the phone system and allowing patients to book non-emergency appointments online.
Mr Baxter said: “Since 2018 they’ve been saying they’re doing everything they can. But I can’t see any changes. It’s gloomy. People just resigned themselves to having to show up at A&E. It’s frustrating what they keep saying The phone system is run by the health department or blames problems on the pandemic, but the place has been broken since day one.
“I believe that the place needs to be closed. You have to start from scratch. There is no consistent maintenance. Most general practitioners only work a very few hours each week. I think questions need to be asked again about what the budget is being spent on.”
The practice has a total of four partners and sixteen general practitioners. Employee names previously available on their website have been removed. Mr Baxter said he is one of dozens of patients who have filed complaints claiming the practice blocked him and others on social media for doing so.
He said: “When I finally saw a GP, they told me to stop inciting complaints. Many have complained and have been blocked from the practice on social media platforms. There is a culture at the top of not responding effectively to constructive criticism.”
The practice’s first meeting with the local health and social partnership is scheduled for late November, three months after the release of the independent assessment. A spokesman said: “Our role as senior healthcare professionals is to implement the report’s recommendations in a way that prioritizes the care and safety of our patients, and to do so in a way that is sustainable for our team. We understand that patients like to see change – and unfortunately the same is true of patients at many other practices across Scotland who are beginning to feel similar pressures.
“The review team’s report made it clear that the practice is making full and proper use of the resources allocated to it, and in a way that is consistent with expectations: we have a comparable number of clinicians, and we award a comparable number of appointments to other practices. We remain committed to making the changes we can – and continuing to do the best work we can for our patients with the resources we have. We continue to make good progress implementing the recommendations, including working with the East Lothian Health & Social Care Partnership and NHS Lothian on the recommendations that require their input.
“We look forward to discussing our progress with the review team three and six months after the release of their report, as agreed in the scope of the review – and will be providing another update on our progress in Month 2 shortly. This will continue to be available to patients and stakeholders through our website, email and waiting room as before.”