"What’s really going on here" - Councillor wants answers after patients' struggle to contact Biggleswade GP

Chronicle’s front page story highlighting patient's struggle to get through their GP is raised at Central Beds meeting

By Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 29th April 2022, 6:18 pm
Updated Friday, 29th April 2022, 6:19 pm

A patient’s struggle to get through to Ivel Medical Surgery in Biggleswade on the telephone involving nearly 300 attempts probably “isn’t an isolated incident”, a meeting heard.

Paul Gibbins and his wife told the Biggleswade Chronicle they tried to phone 280 times in total before they could speak to someone.

The problem was highlighted by Independent Biggleswade South councillor Hayley Whitaker at a Central Bedfordshire Council social care, health and housing overview and scrutiny committee meeting.

Ivel Medical Centre

Her comments were addressed to executive member for health, wellbeing and communities and Conservative Sandy councillor Tracey Stock during her regular update.

“I hope you saw the front page of the Biggleswade Chronicle,” explained councillor Whitaker, referring to the headline saying: “I (a patient) called 280 times before I was able to get through.

“It’s been picked up by so many people. They’ve had such a massive response to this. I read it with great interest because it’s something we’ve discussed so much, and I’ve raised regularly.

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Biggleswade GP surgery under fire as couple make nearly 300 calls before getting...

“The BLMK Clinical Commissioning Group response was ‘We know there are telephony issues with this particular practice and we’re working with them to improve it.’

“We’ve heard that now for six to 12 months and we seem to be no further along. There are still people phoning more than 200 times to try to get through.

“I’m just wondering if councillor Stock can come back to me on that to find out what’s really going on here,” added councillor Whitaker.

“I’m sure it’s not isolated incident. I know we’ve discussed it at some length as a committee. It seems like we’re not getting much progress and the basic telephony system remains a massive issue.

“It’s been very much brought to the forefront during the last few days.”

Conservative Heath and Reach councillor Mark Versallion said it was a timely reminder as the CCG response and action plan over the digital telephony is due to be presented to the scrutiny committee at its next meeting in June.

Councillor Stock replied: “I’m really aware of this issue. I can assure you my colleagues and I have been talking over the weekend.

“What we’d like to do is meet with yourselves as ward members and the town council to really look at how we can work together. I don’t know what the answer will be from the CCG.

“Certainly from what we’ve done in Leighton Buzzard it’s talking about that more of that multi-disciplinary team working.

“Meeting with you and the town council is a good step forward. I don’t know where it can go. But, in the first instance, communication is key.”

Councillor Versallion, who chairs the committee, added: “Councillor Whitaker made some good points and we’re continuing to work with the data to understand the size of the problem.

“I think the CCG has done a good job in being more open and transparent with me and councillor Stock, as well as local MPs and generally officers with CBC. So we’re making efforts to change culture and practice.”