Frustration in Ealing Borough Over GP and Hospital Waiting Times

Local health board told situation not improving

Patients are happy with standard of care when they can access it. Picture: Healthwatch Ealing

January 12, 2023

Ealing patients are growing “frustrated” at the lack of available GP and hospital appointments as the NHS continues to struggle. But those able to get appointments are increasingly positive about the nurses and doctors who treat them.

Ealing Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board was told on Wednesday (11 January) that waiting times and access to GPs remained a problem for residents surveyed by Healthwatch Ealing. Daniel Norman, operations manager at Healthwatch Ealing, told the board that patients were frustrated that the situation was not improving.

In the third quarter of 2022, 72 per cent of people reported negative feedback to Healthwatch Ealing when trying to contact their GP on the phone. Out of those waiting for hospital appointments, 58 per cent have something negative to say.

Mr Norman said, “These numbers are not too dramatically different from what we saw across 2022, but again the frustration is more at the fact it does not seem to be getting better, that it seems to be getting more of a hassle or chore are the words we see thrown around.

“But we can emphasise the positives around care and acknowledge the difficulties that it is taking some time to get that care.”

But those who are being treated are overwhelmingly positive about NHS staff giving them care. In GP services, 72 per cent of feedback about the staff was positive and in the hospitals, 90 per cent of people have been positive.

Mr Norman added, “Quality of treatment is 85 per cent positive and it’s been in the 80s throughout 2022 which is fantastic news and it’s great to see that people are happy with their care.”

He continued, “What seems to be the real challenge is around patient choice, it seems as if patients are having fewer ways to engage with their GP. They are being told they have to get repeat prescriptions online or that they have a video appointment rather than an in-person appointment and that tends to be where a large concentration of the negativity comes from.

“While I appreciate the challenges and difficulties, if patients feel like they are being forced into a situation or being denied a way to engage with their GP or hospital, then it is going to be a serious frustration and a highlighted negative.”

Neha Unadkat, borough director at NHS North West London Integrated Care System, said the patient feedback was useful but reminded the board of the wider pressures being faced by the NHS. She said, “The whole system has been under immense pressure so some of the flexibilities that normally we would ask for are limited at the moment in general practice but there is still a lot of work happening to try and improve systems and processes.”

Mark Titcomb, NHS managing Director for Central Middlesex Hospital & Ealing Hospitals, said: “The waits we know for appointments are too long and are not where we would want them. A little bit of that is a post-pandemic hangover as we work through that backlog, I would say that is more the routine cases rather than urgent cases which we are prioritising as you would expect.

“In terms of the quality of care, it is pleasing to hear that and get that feedback as well. It is useful for us to feed that back to our staff in difficult times to say actually there’s external data which is really telling a positive story.”

Councillor Josh Blacker, Ealing Council cabinet member for healthy lives said, “We all recognise that and at the moment some of those scores are very good considering the context. It is not the just partners around this table that can affect that it’s things like, for instance, the government getting round and actually negotiating a pay deal and providing additional resource where necessary.”

Megan Stanley - Local Democracy Reporter