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Norfolk patient threatens to sue GP after facing long wait for ear wax removal

A patient in Norfolk has threatened to sue his GP after being told he might have to wait up to 10 weeks to get his ear wax removed.

Retired county councillor Graham Jones from Antingham, Norfolk, said he would consider taking legal action against Birchwood Medical Practice if he got involved in ‘some sort of an accident because of his lack of hearing’. 

The 75-year-old man told The Eastern Daily Express that he has been struggling to hear for the past two decades and has never been faced with such a long waiting list. 

He said: ‘Normally you ring up and make an appointment to see the nurse and they put a bit of oil in your ear and extract the wax. [They said] you have to go on waiting list now and I was told there was about 300 people on it.’

‘It’s very frustrating. I wear hearing aids anyway and I haven’t got profound deafness, but I can’t hear anything out of my left ear and my right isn’t great. Why should I have to be deaf?

He continued: ‘If, as a result of my not being able to hear properly, I get involved in some sort of accident because of my lack of hearing, I would seriously consider suing them. I wouldn’t put it past me.’

Birchwood Surgery and North Norfolk CCG said in a joint statement that there is no formal waiting list for this service.

The statement said: ‘There is no formal waiting list introduced for ear wax removal. It is simply the case that patients are treated for routine medical problems as soon as an appointment becomes available. We believe most people are aware that there is sometimes a short wait for NHS treatment if it is not an emergency and unless someone has an over-riding medical need, it is usual for people to be seen in turn.’

It added: ‘Birchwood Medical Practice has written to Mr Jones assuring him they look forward to welcoming him at the surgery as soon as possible. Ear irrigation is not part of general practice’s core contracted NHS work, however like a number of surgeries, Birchwood chooses to offer the service to its patients under a separate contract agreement.’

Data released by NHS Digital in 2017 showed that written complaints increased by 9.7% compared to the year before, with GP leaders attributing the increase in part to GPs ‘buckling under the pressures of a huge increase in patient numbers but a shortage of doctors to care for them’.

Last year, GP burnout expert Professor Clare Gerada called for more support for doctors facing a patient complaint, claiming ‘complaints kill doctors’.

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