Patient’s anger over appointments policy

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ELLON Medical Centre has restated its policy on lateness, non-attendance and acceptable patient behaviour, following a recent case where a patient was turned away from an appointment.

The practice issued a statement after the patient concerned complained to the Ellon Times about what they described as the ‘unreasonable’ manner in which they believed they were dealt with at the town’s Schoolhill practice.

In a call to the Times last week, the patient claimed to have phoned ahead to advise the surgery that they would have difficulty making the original appointment time.

“I struggled out from Aberdeen to try to make the 4pm appointment”, they said.

“I knew it was going to be tight, so I phoned ahead, and was told that as long as I arrived within 15 minutes of the appointment, that would be fine.

“I arrived at quarter past four by my watch, which I know is accurate. However, since the reception clock said twenty past, I was turned away.

Clearly angry at being refused the opportunity to see a GP there and then, the patient continued: “I was within the timeline – I find it incredible that the surgery would turn someone away in those circumstances, particularly when their clock is running fast.

“They should be using the speaking clock to make sure that the surgery clock is accurate, and that patients aren’t being turned away when they are not late.”

In response to an enquiry by the Times, the Ellon Group Practice declined to comment on the specific circumstances of the case.

However, in a statement, the practice’s Dr P. J. Reid re-emphasised the surgery’s policy on lateness and non-attendance, as well as the difficulty in accommodating latecomers when GPs operated a system of 10-minute appointments with no gaps in between.

“If a patient arrives less than 15 minutes late for their appointment start time, then they will be allowed to check in and the GP will try to see the patient as soon as possible”, said Dr Reid.

“If the patient arrives more than 15 minutes late for their appointment, they will be asked to rebook.

“If the patient considers their problem urgent, then they are able to wait until the end of that doctor’s surgery at the doctor’s discretion.

“By arriving more than 15 minutes late for an appointment, that appointment has been wasted,” Doctor Reid continued. “If that person is seen straight away then everyone else in the surgery will be seen late because of this. This is unfair to both patients and the GP involved.”

Dr Reid went on: “I think the majority of patients will agree that this is a reasonable system which is in place and agree with the reasons for this. There are, however, some patients who will become very unreasonable and behave in a physically and verbally aggressive manner.

“I would like to remind patients that reception staff are there to help them – not hinder them and it is in no way their fault that someone else is running late.

“In line with NHS Grampian, the Health Centre adopts a zero-tolerance approach to such aggressive behaviour and patients behaving in such a manner will receive a letter reminding them that their behaviour is not acceptable. Should that behaviour be repeated then we will consider removing them from the Practice list.”

When invited to respond by the Times, the patient said they stood by their earlier complaint, but declined to comment further.