Members of the public crowded into Hebden Royd Town Council chamber on September 25th, to hear Dr Nigel Taylor address widespread public concerns about patient safety and restricted access to appointments with Hebden Bridge Group practice doctors.
He was there at the invitation of Hebden Royd Town Council, which had asked the Practice to explain what was going on.
The meeting followed at least two years of public anxiety about lack of access to adequate health care, after the Practice decided to send all patients needing urgent appointments to a morning walk-in clinic in Mytholmroyd.
Dr Taylor said that the Practice is “desperate to recruit more GPs” and has been advertising continuously since five of the 12 GPs left in 2018 for personal reasons. It now only has 9.25 Full Time Equivalent GPs and GP equivalents (Advanced Practice Nurses and Pharmacy Practitioners), for 18,000 patients.
In response to Councillors’ questions, Dr Taylor told the meeting that the Practice would reconsider the possibility of holding the walk in clinic in Hebden Bridge as well as Mytholmroyd, on alternate fixed days.
They will also think about what to do about patients queuing outside the walk in clinic, but the problem with opening the building before 8am is that it would need staffing.
He added that, for patients who are physically unfit to attend the walk-in, or can’t get there between 8am-10am,
“When something comes in that doesn’t fit in the box, we try and accommodate it.”
The Mayor, Cllr Carol Stowe, said the Town Council had heard from many members of the public about problems with the Practice.
As well as problems with the walk-in clinic, issues include:
- appointments cancelled at the last minute and then another 4 or even 6 week wait,
- automatic prescription of painkillers rather than discussing a patient’s request for physiotherapy,
- repeat prescriptions being incorrectly issued,
- admin errors with medical consequences – eg carrying out the wrong blood tests and scan referrals not sent, and
- having to disclose health problems to the receptionist.
Dr Nigel Taylor told the meeting that in line with government plans, the Practice had trained receptionists as “Care Navigators”. They are now responsible for identifying patients’ needs and where they should go for consultation.
Upper Calder Valley Plain Speaker finds it hard to see how this is going to help, when Dr Taylor said the Practice had tried non-clinical triage before and it didn’t work – which was why they set up the walk-in clinic instead.
Dr Nigel Taylor told the meeting that part of the reason for the increased ‘demand’ for GP appointments, that the Practice is unable to meet, is that GPs are already delivering services previously provided in hospital.
What is going to happen if and when the Calderdale and Huddersfield hospitals cuts and centralisation plan goes ahead and the new Primary Care Networks have to deliver even more hospital services?
After the meeting, Rosemary Hedges, a member of the Patient Representation Group, said,
“Dr Nigel Taylor gave Councillors the bare bones of the practice arrangements and current issues with funding shortfalls and staff shortages.
“But his answers to Councillors’ questions didn’t fully address people’s concerns. They also raised a number of other questions, that the public now needs answers to.”