Patients cannot make GP appointments at Lewisham Surgery due to a computer problem
Furious patients have demanded answers after a surgery in south London left people unable to book appointments due to a crashing computer. People registered at Hilly Fields Medical Center in Lewisham have been unable to see a doctor for non-emergency issues for nearly a week.
A notice on the practice’s website initially told patients they could not make appointments from 1 p.m. on March 11 until March 15. But the practice was still refusing to let some patients see a doctor on March 17. The advisory has since been updated and an end date removed.
Hilly Fields Medical Center blamed the lack of elective appointments on its merger with several other GPs in Lewisham. He said the software needed to book appointments would remain offline until all patient details have been transferred. The surgery joins four other Lewisham surgeries to form the Lewisham Care Partnership. These GPs are: St Johns Medical Center, Morden Hill Surgery, Belmont Hill Surgery and Honor Oak Group Practice.
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Patients registered with the GP were unable to have repeat prescriptions processed, check their medical records or receive responses to emails during the switch. Residents registered with Ladywell’s practice have called the lack of appointments unacceptable on social media. A patient expressed anger that the practice knew about the merger months in advance but was unable to guarantee people could still receive treatment.
Another patient said they used the NHS 111 helpline for advice on Covid. Although they received some support over the phone, they said they still urgently needed a doctor’s appointment. Several people have complained that they were unable to book an appointment with the practice through Patient Access – a website and app that allows people to make arrangements to see a doctor.
But others said the situation was beyond the surgery’s control and said she was doing her best in a difficult situation. They said Hilly Fields Medical Center gave people ample notice of the suspension of appointments.
When the Local Democracy Reporting Service attempted to book an appointment with Hilly Fields Medical Center through patient access on March 16, an error message stated that the practice did not support the website. There was no answer when the office number was called. An automated voicemail message said the practice was closed for staff training and would reopen on March 17.
Colin Stears, managing partner of the Lewisham Care Partnership, said patients would not be able to book appointments until all records were updated. He said: “We knew it was going to take time. My staff at Hilly Fields have sent many emails, text messages, it’s on the website. We knew it was coming, but it’s out of our control. There is still a triage system for patients who need to see a GP urgently.
He said that at 9 a.m. on March 17, there were only 13 patient files still waiting to be transferred. As soon as those details are transferred, Mr Stears said patients will be able to book appointments as usual online and by phone. But he said people would have to wait longer before they can use the Patient Access app again.
Mr Stears added: ‘I would like to congratulate the staff. It was a bit difficult for both the staff and the patients. We ask patients to respect our staff. Unfortunately, some did not. Some were actually not very nice to the staff. Everyone should respect each other. »