Patients are calling for more face-to-face appointments at a GP surgery after elderly people complained of being offered telephone consultations.

A group representing users of Dr Abdullah Surgery at Rainham Health Centre in Rainham claims it now has no permanent GP, with some of the existing locum doctors working remotely.

And some say they have experienced delays of over three weeks receiving the results of hospital procedures.

More than 70 patients, Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas and Village ward councillor Margaret Mullane gathered at Rainham Library on April 3  to meet private contractor Omnes Healthcare - but the company sent no representative.

Romford Recorder: Patients, councillors and other members from NHS agencies met at the Rainham Library to discuss the future of the surgeryPatients, councillors and other members from NHS agencies met at the Rainham Library to discuss the future of the surgery (Image: Fay Hough)

Patient’s Participation Group (PPG) chairwoman Fay Hough said they were “extremely disappointed" that others invited had attended, but Omnes did not, despite being given a month’s notice.

Read More: Thousands raised for charity in honour of Rainham GP who died after contracting Covid

Ms Hough told the Recorder: “Most of the patients in the room agreed that telephone consultations are not convenient….most surgeries are back to face-to-face appointments, why are we not?”

She added that there is now a perception that the surgery is being run like a business, with little care for the patients.

“At the moment our GPs are locum, they are not actually contracted to work for us… We want a GP who is contracted to work for us, who is willing to give patient care because right now the locums are just there to tick a box, get paid and go home”, Fay claimed.

Omnes has run the surgery for two years, since Doctor Abdullah died of Covid.

She said: “We have been begging North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT) to give us another room at the Rainham Health Centre so we can get one more GP. We are just being told rooms are not available, when there are so many that seem empty."

The surgery had to take on additional patients when a nearby practice shut down months ago, and Ms Hough said it now has over 5,800 patients on its books.

She said: “We are way oversubscribed, the waiting times for a doctor’s appointment is three and a half weeks. It is ridiculous.

“Firstly a doctor gives you call and only if it is an urgent problem, then I think you will be asked to come to the surgery. But they prefer doing it over the phone if they can”.

Writing to Omnes, Ms Hough has also criticised its view that the practice would run better if there was a more modern approach with remote appointments, stating that of the more than 70 people who attended the meeting, at least 50 of these were elderly.

Cllr Mullane said at the meeting: “There are so many failures there needs to be a check to see if the contract holders are in breach of their contract. We must hold these people to account.”

“The way the NHS awards contracts to private providers whose objective is to make profits needs a root and branch review”, she added.

The Recorder contacted Omnes Group chair Stephen Dorrell and was sent a letter sent to Ms Hough, apologising for their company’s failure to attend.

In it, he highlighted the steps his team is taking to address the patient’s complaints, which includes implementing a ‘digital access platform’ that he said has significantly improved patient experience at other practices.

He said: “We provide face to face appointments where that is the best solution for an individual patient, but we also believe that a modern primary care service should use modern technology”.

He said they are trying to hire a permanent GP for the practice, to provide for more face to face appointments, but currently many doctors provide remote consultations from their own homes as this allows the NHS to increase its primary care capacity.

The next PPG meeting is scheduled to take place on May 4 at the Rainham Health Centre.