BOSSES at Lion Health say they are "working extremely hard" to give patients timely access to healthcare after a barrage of complaints about the surgery's phone in appointments system.

The practice in Lowndes Road, Wollaston, was rated the most difficult in the borough to get through to on the phone, according to NHS England's GP Patient Survey.

Just three people (1 per cent) out of the 410 who responded to the survey about their experiences said it was very easy to get through via the telephone, while 193 people (48 per cent) said it was not at all easy to get through.

Following publication of the survey in July this year - surgery bosses promised to look at solutions to help improve communication and Dudley CCG said it would be paying particular attention to practices with low patient approval ratings to help them improve their services.

Complaints about the phone system, however, have not gone away. Patients have taken to social media and been in touch with us to vent their frustration of over being more than 100th in the queue to try to secure an appointment or a prescription.

One patient, Steve Clifton, said he has been unable to get through on the appointments line or the general enquiries number and he told the News: "I've got more chance of getting to the moon than getting through."

A few weeks ago he was so frustrated at the queuing system, he decided to go down to the surgery and "had it out with a guy on the front door" but he said: "He wouldn't even bring a manager out."

He added: "They closed all the local surgeries around this area and everyone depends on Lion Health and they just can't manage it."

Patients have reported being as far back as 124th in the queue after calling at just a few minutes after 8am, with some saying they have been cut off when almost nearing the end of the queue and others telling how when they finally did get through there were no appointments available that day.

Helen Ashby told how she was on hold for more than an hour as she tried to call up about some medication for her son.

Another patient, who asked not to be named, said: "I called at 8am exactly and was 45th in the queue - then accidentally ended the call and called back at 8.10am and became 119th in the queue."

After 90-minutes on hold trying to get through, he said: "I'm not impressed with their service."

Another man contacted the News after calling at 8.13am one morning to discover he was 124th in the queue. He said: "I believe part of the problem lies in a lack of staff, or most staff being part-time. Plus, they're not allowing pre-booked appointments, just on the day."

And one woman ended up dialling 999 her for extremely unwell son, who ended up in hospital, after days of trying to secure an appointment over the phone for a doctor to do a home visit.

A spokesman for Lion Health, which looks after more than 25,000 patients, said: “We are aware that some patients are unhappy with phone access to our practice.

"We are working extremely hard to ensure that our patients have safe and timely access to primary care services at Lion Health, and are able to seek advice for health related issues that they may be worried about.

"We are committed to providing and improving services for our patients and continue to provide support with our nursing, advanced nurse practitioner, long term conditions, physiotherapy, pharmacist and GP teams; as well as utilising care navigation to offer a wide range of options to our patients of other appropriate healthcare providers."

Surgery bosses say they continue to work on improvements promised earlier in the year and they will soon be launching a new website which will give patients "a new, alternative route to process or get answers to some administrative queries - therefore taking further pressure off the phone lines and allowing more timely access to be able to book appointments".

The spokesman added: "Our updated website will also house information on common conditions and information on the self-management of minor illness.

"We have already begun our communications rollout to patients to keep them abreast of changes to our website and how this may produce efficiencies for them.

"We have reinstated our online access in a measured way for specific clinics and Saturdays, and look to increase capacity to offer further online booking when possible, ensuring safety for all patients and staff remains of paramount importance.

"We are working incredibly hard to be proactive in instigating change for the better at Lion Health in order to offer a good service to our patients.”