STOURBRIDGE’S Lion Health GP surgery remains the worst in the borough to get through to on the telephone, according to patients.

The super-sized surgery, off Lowndes Road, has hit the headlines and been the subject of repeated criticism on social media, over the last few years, for leaving patients hanging on the telephone - sometimes for well an hour in the hope of booking an appointment with a GP.

Improvements were promised back in 2020 after the NHS’s GP Patient Survey revealed just 19 per cent of patients rated the surgery as being easy to get through to on the telephone.

According to the 2023 survey, however, just 10 per cent of Lion Health patients now say it’s easy to get through via the phone – with an overwhelming 90 per cent of survey respondents describing it as ‘not easy’.

Back in 2018, nearly half of patients surveyed (44 per cent) felt it was easy enough to get through.

People’s views on the experience of making an appointment have also plunged over the last five years. In 2018, 72 per cent of patients described the appointment making experience as good, while in 2023 this figure was just 35 per cent.

Similarly, patients have rated their overall experience of the surgery as lower. In 2018 it had an overall good experience rating of 92 per cent. This year just 58 per cent gave it a thumbs up overall.

Nationally, 50 per cent of patients said it was easy to get through to their GP practice on the phone; 54.4 per cent of patients rated their overall experience of making an appointment as good; and 71.3 per cent of patients rated their overall experience of their GP practice as good.

Lion Health has not responded to a request for comment on the situation and the ICB, which commissions primary healthcare across the borough, has said it wants patients to have “the best experience possible” and it has been working with surgeries to upgrade telephone systems.

However, one frustrated patient - who asked not to be named - told the News a year-long campaign to try to bring about pledges of improvement had proven a “long, lonely and ultimately unsuccessful journey”.

The patient said help had not been forthcoming from the Integrated Care Board and it seemed even the town’s MP had been given the “cold shoulder” by the surgery which has nearly 30,000 patients on its books.

Stourbridge MP Suzanne Webb said: “The amount of correspondence I receive on this matter from constituents is of great concern.

“Lion Health now have a new management team and I would very much like the opportunity to meet with them to discuss the issues that have been raised.

“I have asked for a meeting previously but it is not yet forthcoming.

“Most residents who do write are happy with service they receive; the major problem is getting through on the phones in the first instance.”

The Ridgeway Surgery in Sedgley has the best rating in the borough for patients being able to get through easily on the phone; 84 per cent rated this positively.

In the Stourbridge area, just outside the borough in Belbroughton, The Glebelands Surgery scored a rating of 98 per cent for ease of getting through on the phone.

One local resident, whose relative was switched to this surgery due to a change of address after years at Lion Health, said she could not believe the phone was answered within minutes on every occasion!

The NHS Black Country Integrated Care Board (ICB) made no comment specifically about the phone system at Lion Health and the low ratings given in the Patient Survey when approached for comment.

Sarb Basi, director of primary care for the local ICB, however, did say: "In the Black Country, nine in 10 of responding patients reported having confidence and trust in the healthcare professional they saw at their last appointment and felt their needs were met. “We want our patients to have the best experience possible and having continuous patient feedback is crucial in helping us to deliver what patients need. “We are determined to improve patients' experience and access to primary care which is why we have extended access to appointments for evenings and weekends, we are working to increase the range of healthcare professionals working in primary care to support GPs, we are upgrading GP telephone systems and are making better use of digital alternatives where appropriate."

On a positive note, patients of Lion Health did give the surgery a 96 per cent rating for how confident they felt in the health professional seen at their last appointment, once they’d been able to obtain one.

Only 41 per cent of patients said they were satisfied with appointment times and just 12 per cent said they were able to speak often to their preferred GP.

64 per cent of patients, however, reported the website being easy to use and 78 per cent rated the receptionists as helpful.