Bedford patients ‘on hold for over 15 minutes’ while they wait for GP appointment

But health bosses say telephone systems are being upgraded

A new survey by the Liberal Democrat has found Bedford residents are facing extreme waiting times for GP appointments, ambulances and at A&E.

And one councillor has said “enough is enough” and is demanding more GPs are recruited in the area.

Of the residents who responded to each question:

Do you struggle to get a doctor's appointment?

· 60% said they were on hold for over 15 minutes when trying to book a GP appointment

· 58% said they waited over a week for a GP appointment

· 41% said they waited over an hour for an ambulance to arrive

· 41% said they wait over six hours at A&E

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According to the Lib Dems, earlier this year figures revealed the number of patients per GP across Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) had grown to over 2,700 – the 6th worst figure in the country.

But health chiefs said they are recruiting and retaining more GPs.

Councillor Wendy Rider, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for health, said: “Enough is enough. People across Bedford borough are struggling to get appointments to access the vital care they need.

"Meanwhile, GPs are dealing with immense amounts of pressure and simply cannot meet the demand. I’m deeply concerned with the number of people whose health may be damaged by long waits to see a doctor.”

According to the Lib Dem’s survey, it is not just primary care that’s suffering.

The ambulance service is close to breaking point.

Councillor Dean Crofts, portfolio holder for adult services, said: “The health service and help with funding for adult social care has got worse since 2015.

"Ambulances are left waiting to hand over patients with hospitals also struggling to cope.

"We have a health service in crisis, from primary GP provision all the way up to emergency care.”

A spokesman for Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Integrated Care Board said: “There are actions under way here in Bedfordshire to help improve people’s experience of getting through to their local GP practice by telephone.

“Through the support of national funding, telephone systems used by GP practices across Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes are being upgraded.

"Once installed in a practice, it gives the team a much better understanding of how many people are calling at any one time, thus allowing more colleagues to answer phones so people wait much less time to get through.

“Despite the very high demand for primary care services, the range of services being made available to patients is being increased so people get offered appointments, either by phone or in person, with the right clinician in their practice – which sometimes maybe a pharmacist, therapist or practice nurse depending on what patient needs.

"In addition to ensuring that a wide range of primary care professionals are available, we’re also recruiting and retaining more GPs – including in Bedfordshire.

“With regard to emergency services, we know that our colleagues in local A&Es and ambulance services are working hard to ensure people get effective patient care. We would always recommend that unless it is a life-saving emergency, when people should always call 999, the first point of call for urgent medical advice should be NHS111 (either one line or by calling 111 from any phone).”

The Liberal Democrats have set up a petition to increase the number of GPs in Bedford.