STOURBRIDGE'S Lion Health GP surgery is officially the worst in the borough for ease of getting through on the phone, according to latest data.

Many patients of the Lowndes Road surgery have vented their frustrations on social media about being able to get an appointment by calling up or just being able to get through to the practice to speak to someone.

And according to official stats from NHS England, the surgery is rated the most difficult to get through to on the phone.

Just 19 per cent of those who responded to the GP Patient Survey about their experiences said it was easy to get through on the telephone.

Just three people (1 per cent) out of the 410 who answered the question said it was very easy to get through via phone, while 193 people (48 per cent) said it was not at all easy to get through.

The super sized surgery, which looks after around 25,000 patients, however, ranks fourth best in the Dudley CCG area for use of its online appointment booking system.

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When questioned, 35 per cent of patients said they had booked appointments online in the last 12 months although the majority (56 per cent) of respondents had not used any online facilities provided by the surgery such as ordering repeat prescriptions, booking appointments or accessing their medical records during that time.

The surgery's receptionists got a resounding thumbs up though - with 91 per cent of respondents rating them as helpful, but 71 per cent of patients said they almost never or only sometimes saw their preferred GP - with just 28 per cent saying they always or often saw their doctor of choice.

The surgery also fell within the bottom ten in Dudley when patients rated GP practices by overall experience. 71 per cent of patients rated the surgery overall as good, compared to the 82 per cent national average rating of primary care experiences.

A spokesman for Lion Health said: "We are really pleased that 71 per cent have rated us overall as good and that 88 per cent of Lion Health patients feel they receive enough support to manage their long term condition.

"We understand patients are unhappy with phone access for our practice, we acknowledge this is an issue and we are currently looking at ways to improve this."

Bosses at Lion Health say in order to improve communication they are looking at upgrading their website "to enable administrative queries to be dealt with via a digital platform taking pressure off the telephone system".

They are also working with NHS colleagues "to understand the demand for services and the resource required to provide timely responses to patient queries", plus re-enabling the booking of appointments through the online system post coronavirus pandemic, as well as encouraging the use of an electronic prescription service to divert prescription requests away from the telephone line, and supporting staff and patients to use the "breadth of the primary health care team to access services from the most appropriate health care professional".

Eve Hill Medical Practice in Dudley rated the best in the borough for overall experience, with 100 per cent of patients giving it a top approval rating; while 97 per cent of patients rated Kingswinford Medical Practice as good, and 95 per cent of patients at Pedmore Medical Practice, Lower Gornal Medical Practice and St James's Medical Practice in Dudley rated their overall experience of their surgeries as good.

Surgeries with the worst ratings for overall experience were Coseley Medical Centre, Keelinge House in Brierley Hill and Chapel Street Medical Centre (Dr BK Prashara) in Lye where just 46, 55 and 56 per cent of patients respectively rated their overall experiences as good.

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Dr Ruth Edwards, chairman of Dudley CCG, said: "As we analyse the results we will be paying particular attention to those practices who are at the bottom of the ratings from their patients and to those who have seen any significant decline in ratings since last year. We will also focus our attention on those top scoring practices, encouraging the sharing of best practice and supporting those who have issues to improve."

She said the survey was conducted between January and March before changes were made due to the coronavirus crisis which has emphasised the need for patients to be able to contact their GP online or by telephone and although it was pleasing to see patients were aware of online services and using them - she added: "We do, however, have concerns over the telephone access scores for some of our practices and we will be working with them to address this."

She urged people to continue using GP services if "concerned about any symptoms which are not normal" - and to always call the surgery rather than just turn up - and she added: "GP practices might be working differently but they are very much open and here to see people if necessary."