Biggleswade GPs' telephone systems have not been working properly for more than a week

"The bottom line is our residents can't access GPs"

By Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 15th October 2021, 12:18 pm
Updated Friday, 15th October 2021, 12:20 pm

Patients wanting to see their GP in Biggleswade are facing an extra problem because of surgery telephone service failings, a meeting heard.

For up to ten days residents have faced issues that have been reported to BLMK Clinical Commissioning Group, Central Bedfordshire Council' s Biggleswade joint committee was told.

Independent Biggleswade South councillor Hayley Whitaker referred to improvements promised around accessing a GP via the phone.

For up to ten days residents have faced issues with Biggleswade GPs' phone systems

"Some of the (GP) telephone services in the town haven't been working properly for about a week to ten days," she said.

"I've contacted BLMK CCG about this, but it isn't responsible for the phone service and can't dictate what the GPs use.

"So we can't force them to be more accessible or fix the problems we face with the systems in place.

"The bottom line is our residents can't access GPs. If they can't get through on the phone, they turn up in person. Right now we don't want them congregating at surgeries.

"So we're just creating a bigger mess. I can't see any solution at either a national or local level. I'm just hearing words."

The topic arose during an update on health and social care hub provision in the town from Central Bedfordshire Council's head of partnership and performance Patricia Coker.

Conservative Biggleswade South councillor Mark Foster, who chairs the committee, said: "It's not something this meeting can resolve here, but it needs to be recognised.

"Locally there are genuine issues. It would be helpful to have your support around the telephone response because it's a problem for us."

Ms Coker explained: "Health colleagues are looking at how to mitigate the impact around access to GPs."

The timeline for the hub has been severely impacted by Covid, according to Ms Coker.

"We've progressed our conversation with NHS Property Services, so we can secure the site as a local asset," she said.

"We're also convening work now to develop the outline business case. We've identified a project manager to support this work."

Councillor Whitaker described the site as "difficult for some residents to get to", asking: "Given the 12-acre London Road site is becoming available now, isn't it more realistic to think about that location for the hub?

"CBC already owns that land and we could progress it straight away without these negotiations."

Ms Coker replied: "I don't know the details about the London Road site or where it's reached, so I'll refer back to my council colleagues.

"Good practice would require us to revisit what's available and do that work again as part of the outline business case.

"We'll consider what other assets are available in the area, where the housing expansion is going to be, and ensure the location meets the needs of the current and future population."

Councillor Foster said: "As long as we're not too far down the line with the NHS, it's certainly something well worth considering, unless assets have another plan we're not fully aware of yet."

Mayor Madeline Russell agreed the London Road site should be considered.

She said: "The committee was told the initial agreement on the Biggleswade Hospital site would be ready to go to executive in December.

"Now it's obvious we're nowhere near that. The whole health situation in Biggleswade is so bad now, access to GPs in particular.

"We know the issue with the lack of qualified GPs nationally. That's a large part of the equation.

"But residents can't understand why we're not providing a new building which can accommodate GPs in the neighbourhood plan.

"The longer this goes on we're losing all credibility as councils with the public we represent."