Booking plan will erode relationship with patients, say GPs

GPs have expressed outrage at plans to make practice staff redundant and set up call centres to handle appointments.

Dr Chaudhury: booking call centre would be similar to that of banks (Photograph: Pete Hill)

Bristol GP Dr Tom Frewin called the idea 'absolutely ludicrous'. 'Someone in London should be shot for allowing this out,' he said. 'It's rubbish.'

West Midlands GP Dr Charles Broomhead said he could not imagine anyone thinking this was a good idea.

'Each practice is so complex and so individual that it's almost a cottage industry. All the local sensitivity would be lost,' he warned.

Nottingham GP Dr Jonathan Harte said call centres would be the first step towards an entirely salaried GP service.

'We are small businesses and we need control over the staff.

If they're going to take that away, it won't work,' he said.

Dr Saheli Chaudhury, a GP in York, likened it to banks moving to a call centre system. 'It eroded my relationship with the bank when mine did that.

A general practice is a community and this would erode that,' she said.

'Sometimes even a scrip request means we may have to talk to the patient.'

Derbyshire GP Dr John Grenville said the idea made no sense since practices would still need receptionists in core hours. 'There needs to be someone there to let patients in to the see doctors,' he said.

He said the idea assumed receptionists did nothing but answer calls, which was untrue.

They also deal with requests for repeat prescriptions, certificates and forms, incoming post and other administrative tasks, he said. 'They should look at making more appointments online.'

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