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Meeting airs Sheringham surgery system concerns

PUBLISHED: 17:00 20 March 2010 | UPDATED: 10:27 13 July 2010

Tracey Gray

Hundreds of people packed into a meeting discussing concerns with a phone appointment system being used at a north Norfolk surgery.

Bosses of Sheringham Medical Practice called the public meeting, which took place on Friday at Sheringham Community Centre, to discuss with patients their concerns about the surgery's total telephone triage system (TTS), which has been in place since January 2009.

HUNDREDS of people packed into a meeting discussing concerns with a phone appointment system being used at a north Norfolk surgery.

Bosses of Sheringham Medical Practice called the public meeting, which took place on Friday at Sheringham Community Centre, to discuss with patients their concerns about the surgery's total telephone triage system (TTS), which has been in place since January last year.

Under the system, patients call the surgery, register their details with a receptionist and a doctor will ring back usually within two hours to talk to them and decide the best way to treat them, which can range from reassurance to seeing a doctor or nurse.

But the use of the system has raised many concerns and caused friction.

At the meeting Dr Peter Sampson from the practice said staff had received verbal and physical abuse because of people's concerns with the TTS system.

Chairman of the meeting, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, said while it was important to find a way forward, staff at the surgery also needed to be treated with respect.

At the meeting was Chloe Green, 23, from Langham Court in Sheringham, who started a Facebook campaign about the TTS system and has since started a petition and held surgeries with people about their concerns.

Speaking at the meeting she said: "This is a system that lacks empathy, it is a system where compassion does not exist."

Vikki Jay, of Hannah Close in Sheringham, spoke at the meeting and said she was given a post-natal check over the phone after losing her young son, Alfie.

She said: "I was horrified. I was not asked to come in at all, even though I was bereaved, it left me mortified and shocked."

Other concerns raised at the meeting including having to discuss personal problems over the phone and waiting for calls back.

Some did speak in favour of the system. One woman said: "I want to speak in favour of the system. I think it does work better, it cuts down on having to constantly redial the surgery before you can get through."

At the meeting, practice manager Charlotte Pike gave a presentation emphasising the benefits of the system, including patients having direct contact with their doctor and there not being a first-past-the-post appointment system.

She said: "There is an assumption this has been introduced to stop people seeing their doctor; hand on heart I can tell you that is not true."

She said they had a regular audit of the TTS system, where they randomly selected calls and reviewed how they were dealt with. She said they also discussed any complaints made by patients at regular meetings of the surgery's patient participation group.

The practice is now commissioning an independent survey of patient satisfaction with the TTS system, where 10pc of patients, roughly 1,000 people, will be asked what they think. The results will then be reviewed by the surgery and the NHS.

At the meeting there was also an agreement to have another public meeting in six months to re-evaluate the system and see if there have been improvements.


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