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Issues with private firm’s GP booking system causes patients to visit A&E

A new call centre for booking GP appointments has contributed to an increase in A&E attendances, as patients struggling to get through to the booking system turned to A&E instead.

The issues come after NHS Swindon CCG brought in private firm Integra Medical Holdings earlier this year to manage phone bookings to five surgeries in Swindon.

Practices in the area were already battling a shortage of 25 GPs, with more than 9,500 patients waiting more than four weeks for their GP appointment in October, equivalent to 8% of all bookings, according to the Swindon Advertiser.

But it seems the latest issues with the centralised phone booking system have made the situation worse and resulted in a rise in attendences to Swindon’s Great Western Hospital.

Accountants at the hospital are now calculating the cost of extra A&E patients who have been unable to see a GP.

A spokesperson for NHS Swindon CCG said: ‘GP recruitment is not a challenge that is exclusive to Swindon, with many other large towns and cities also feeling the effects of a current workforce nearing retirement age and a shortage of new doctors coming through the system.

‘Despite these challenges, we are encouraged by figures from the latest GP Survey which showed that 60% of Swindon patients were able to book an appointment with their GP on the same day, the next day or within a week of contacting their surgery.

‘We do recognise that there is still much to do and, as a CCG, we remain committed to doing all we can to bringing in as many new GPs as possible – from across the UK and further afield – to Swindon.’

Earlier this year, Pulse revealed that GP vacancy rates are at the highest level ever recorded, with one in six positions unfilled.