Sheringham surgery defends appointment system

Sheringham doctors have defended their use of a phone appointment system which means patients do not always get to see a GP.The town's Medical Practice, which has more than 10,000 patients, has come under fire from some town residents for its telephone assessment method for appointments.

Sheringham doctors have defended their use of a phone appointment system which means patients do not always get to see a GP.

The town's Medical Practice, which has more than 10,000 patients, has come under fire from some town residents for its telephone assessment method for appointments.

Under the total telephone triage system (TTS), which was introduced last January, patients ring the surgery, register their details with a receptionist and wait for a doctor to call 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.

Despite some complaints, bosses at the medical practice insist patients benefit from a system which gets away from 'first-come-first-served' and gives direct contact with their doctor sooner.


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Sheringham is the only GP surgery in NHS Norfolk's area to offer the TTS, although the majority of practices do operate a variation of telephone triage.

One of the reasons the system was introduced was due to the practice having a higher than average number of people aged 66 and above, resulting in the treatment of more patients with long-standing health problems.

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One of its GPs, Dr Paul Roebuck, said: 'We think there is a perceptional problem and that patients do not understand what we are trying to achieve. The TTS system has to be better for patients. They speak direct to a clinician at the earliest possible time. The system is a patient-centric one.

'Someone can speak to a doctor at 11.30am and by 1.30pm on the same day, have investigations done. The system is not about barriers. At the end of a phone call the patient still has a right to request to see a doctor.'

Practice business manager Charlotte Pike said the practice held monthly review sessions with their patient participation group, looking at feedback from patients.

She said: 'People have absolutely nothing to fear from giving us feedback. Another perception people have is that if they say something that is it going to come back on them.'

The practice plans to publish a new information leaflet explaining the benefits of the system next month.

As reported in last week's North Norfolk News, former Sheringham Carnival queen, Chloe Green, 23, from Langham Court in Sheringham, has started a campaign on social networking site, Facebook asking people to raise their concerns about the phone system.

Her petition, has already attracted more than 150 signatures, and all this week she has been holding surgeries at The Hub inside Sheringham Little Theatre for people to share their concerns.

She said many people felt they could not easily describe their illness over the phone, and there was a feeling from people that doctors did no want to see them anymore.

One 79-year-old who had visited Ms Green's surgery, said: 'My wife has used the telephone system and not found it helpful at all. There are also a number of times I have called the surgery and then seen a different nurse or GP to the one I spoke to. There seems to be no consistency.

'Having said that, my wife had an operation and could not praise the doctor from the surgery enough for how they helped her.'

What do think? Does your GP surgery - at Sheringham or elsewhere - give you the appointment service you want? Write to deputy editor Terry Redhead at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or e-mail nnn.letters@archant.co.uk

Turn to letters our letters pages to read other patients' views on the TTS system.

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