Queues of sick people outside Romford doctors before 8am

The surgery holds more than 1,000 appointments a week. Picture: PA

The surgery holds more than 1,000 appointments a week. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Sick people desperate to see a doctor have taken to queuing up outside a GP practice in Romford before it opens at 8am.

Lines of up to 50 have been seen stretching from the doors of North Street Medical Centre in Romford as people go to great lengths to book an emergency appointment.

Problems accessing GPs across the borough have been reported on social media website Streetlife with users speaking of long waits for appointments and difficulties getting through on the phone.

A 45-year-old patient of North Street Medical Centre, who does not wish to be named, said: “There’s a six or seven-week wait for an appointment, but they have emergency slots which you have to ring up to book at 8am when it opens.

“But by the time you get through to them they are all gone. When I spoke to the receptionist she told me I needed to get down there and queue up.

Staff at the surgery said patients “struggle to get a seat” in the waiting room some days, and Cllr Steven Kelly, chairman of Havering’s Health and Wellbeing Board, said the problem was “a sign of the times” caused by Havering’s growing population.

Havering CCG has taken steps to address the problem increasing cover around holiday periods and at evenings.

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The NHS is being used as a political battleground in the election campaign and Romford’s candidates have had their say.

Conservative Andrew Rosindell said the problem had existed for a long time and more funding should be made available.

Labour’s Sam Gould said: “The NHS is at breaking point. We need massive investment immediately.”

Ukip’s Gerard Batten blamed the demand for GPs on immigration while Green candidate Lorna Tooley said the surgeries were being run as businesses and not putting patients first.

An NHS England spokesman said the service has 12,400 patients, with another 4,500 using it from other sites, and holds more than 1,000 appointments a week.

“Out of choice, some patients choose to present themselves to the surgery before the surgery is actually open,” he said.

“The queue is, on average usually no more than 7-10 individuals, most, if not all of whom manage to get the early, same day appointment they had planned to get. The queue also includes patients wanting to collect a prescription or other paperwork.”

He added that from June, the practice will pilot a new system where GPs will call patients wishing to be seen that day, which will hopefully put an end to patients queuing.

To access a evening and weekend appointments patients are available to those registered to Havering surgeries via the 111 service.