Arthritis-sufferer protests GP after struggling to get appointment

Arthritis-sufferer, 60, stages sit-down protest in GP waiting room demanding to see a doctor after struggling to get face-to-face appointment

  • Stevan Richardson, 60, protested ‘I want to “see” a “doctor” in GP waiting room
  • He wanted a face-to-face appointment at Sydenham House in Ashford, Kent
  • Mr Richardson has arthritis and wants mental health treatment after a bad fall
  • This comes as patients struggle to book face-to-face appointments in England

A man has become so fed-up of struggling to get a face-to-face appointment with his doctor that he staged a sit-down protest in the waiting room.

Stevan Richardson, 60 – who suffers with degenerative arthritis, depression and deteriorating mental health since being hospitalised after a bad fall in October – sat next to a homemade placard reading: ‘Peaceful protest. I want to “see” a “doctor”.’

Mr Richardson went to the Sydenham House Medical Centre, in Ashford, Kent, but was told he had to book an appointment over the phone or by online booking system eConsult.

But he said he cannot use either option and wants to book a face-to-face appointment at the surgery’s reception.

Stevan Richardson (pictured), 60 – who suffers with degenerative arthritis, depression and deteriorating mental health – become so fed-up of struggling to get a face-to-face appointment with his doctor that he staged a sit-down protest in the waiting room

‘Peaceful protest. I want to “see” a “doctor”‘: Mr Richardson sat next to a homemade placard (pictured) in the waiting room of the Sydenham House Medical Centre, in Ashford, Kent

This comes after it was revealed that just one in eight GP appointments are face-to-face at England’s worst-performing practices – with the national average being 71 per cent – the highest since before the pandemic.

The Government’s first ever ‘league table’, designed to ‘name and shame’ surgeries into seeing more patients in-person, showed 12 per cent of consultations were in-person in October at some practices across London.

Mr Richardson said he can’t afford to wait in the 8am phone queue because he says sometimes you won’t have got through to anyone but will have spent too much money on hold.

He said he cannot access eConsult on his phone doesn’t and he isn’t tech savvy so he has to get a friend to book appointments online for him, adding that he wants an in-person consultation with a doctor to get a proper mental health diagnosis.

He said he had not experienced these issues before the Covid pandemic.

After he failed to see a doctor there he sat in the waiting room with the sign, a sandwich, a coffee, and BBC Radio 2 in his headphones.

He waited there for 30 minutes before someone offered him a telephone consultation, which he declined because it was not face-to-face.

Shortly after, the practice manager arrived with another worker but despite a 45 minute conversation he did not get to see a doctor.

He said: ‘I’m screaming for help and nobody is listening. A telephone call is not going to help my situation.

‘Originally, the practice manager spoke to me, and then I saw a man who isn’t a doctor.

‘I could change to another practice but I shouldn’t have to. They’re just not listening.

‘As far as I’m concerned, I can just pop into my dentist and get an appointment over the counter, but you have to phone or use e-consult at the doctor’s.

‘I can’t do either of those things so where am I supposed to go to?

‘I’m struggling with my mental health at the moment – and I even think to myself, I don’t look very well.’

Senior staff at Sydenham House (pictured) said they are trying to improve access to the surgery.

He said: ‘Initially went to the receptionist and got the usual, ‘please phone at 8am or book via eConsult’, which I can’t use.

‘So I showed them the sign, then went and sat down with a coffee, a sandwich, and some Radio 2 music.

‘Then 30 minutes later a receptionist came up to me and said we booked you a telephone consultation.

‘I said, “no I want face to face”.

‘Eventually the practice manager took me into a room, and I met another guy but apparently he is not a doctor.

‘That consultation took 45 mins, but if he’d given me an appointment it would have taken 10 minutes.’

Mr Richardson added: ‘On the 4th October this year I fell from the second or third step of my stairs.

‘I suffer with degenerative arthritis in my lower back, and I took a fall on my lower back and landed really heavily. I ended up in hospital for 15 hours.

‘Since then I’ve I wanted to see someone about my mental health. I was able to see someone when I was in hospital, and since then I’ve been given help from the hospital.

‘I can’t afford to put the money on my phone, if you call at 8 am and you can’t get through and that’s a tenner wasted.

‘Since the protest I’ve returned to the surgery but they repeated the same – use phone or eConsult.

‘I’m trying to get help for my mental health and people aren’t listening, and when people don’t listen with mental health it makes it worse.

‘It is not acceptable. not everybody can use eConsult, I’m not very good with computers.’

Senior staff at Sydenham House said they are trying to improve access to the surgery.

A spokesperson said: ‘We’re sorry to hear of this patient’s recent experience.

‘We are working to improve access to the practice and realise it can be frustrating for those who have difficulty getting through.

‘Due to patient confidentiality, we are unable to comment further.’

A study also revealed yesterday that five million people a month are unable to book a GP appointment when they want one with the number doubling in a year.

The graph the GP services in England that provided the fewest in-person appointments in October (red), the fewest consultations with GPs (purple) and the fewest same-day appointments (green). The NHS noted that its data is experimental — so may be of poor quality and subject to change. And some GP services have a digital first approach 

NHS Digital data for England in October shows more patients were seen face-to-face since Covid first hit the UK (71.3 per cent). Officials have told doctors to see more patients in-person over concerns about missed diagnoses

Millions more are left waiting over a month to be seen, potentially forcing them to overcrowded A&Es or leaving them at risk of serious diseases being diagnosed too late.

The situation has got drastically worse, with the number unable to see a GP rocketing from 2.7million in October 2021 to 5.2million this October, according to analysis of NHS figures by the Labour Party.

Patients struggling to see their GP face-to-face has been a growing issue since the pandemic – and the issue is set to worsen still as GPs voted to cut their working hours to 9-5.

It emerged last month that a GP was conducting online consultations for patients at her West Sussex surgery some 260 miles away from the comfort of her £585,000 Cornish home.

Dr Justine Hall is one of three doctors listed as working at Rudgwick Medical Centre near Horsham, West Sussex, and has her name in bold lettering on the gold nameplate outside the surgery.

Members of the public also criticised the radical proposal, saying it will make it even harder for patients to get appointments. 

The surgery has recently been experiencing ‘high demand’ for its services, according to a recorded message from Dr Hall herself on its phone system.

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