GP access still a worry, saysMP

THE delay in patients getting an appointment at aWestMallingGP surgery remains a concern, in spite pledges that thingswill improve. MP Tom Tugendhat recently

wrote toWestMalling Group Prac- tice about the difficulties faced by those trying to make an appoint- ment at its Milverton site, stating: “While I appreciate the severe pres- sures on theNHS, andit is clear that it is hard to get appointments at otherGPs in the area, but none have systemswhere the onlyway todo so is to be on the phone at the right sec- ond at 8.15am.” The surgery has nowintroduceda

system allowing more patients to wait on the line to book an appoint- ment and pledged that more staff will be trained to take bookings and more doctors recruited. However, Mr Tugendhat says:

“My concerns about booking ap- pointments remain, despite the in- crease in queue length, and I look forward to working with the prac- tice to improve on this.”

In an online statement, the sur-

gery admits the maximum waiting time for callers can still be up to 15 minutes, adding it is “training and hiring constantly to reach its goals”. It says an extra member of staff

will now take calls on Friday after- noons to reducewaiting times at an- other “peak time” for patient calls. The surgery also admits it needs

to address the number of appoint- ments available and has appointed GP Dr Usha Ramjeeawon for two days a week from November 5. Dr Thomas Reichhelm returns from Australia this month and will be available three days a week. Dr Nicola Swindlehurst has also been recruitedas a locumover thewinter. The surgery hopes to announce a

start date for anotherGP shortly. However, theMPhas toldthe sur-

gery: “I knowof residentswho have looked to register with other prac- tices and peoplewho are concerned about moving and investing in the area because of the the lack of access to aGP.”

Ale fans drink festival dry

THERE was barely a drop of beer left at the Camra Beer and Cider festival after eight hours of fun in EastMalling. The successful event on Septem-

ber 1, which was the ninth organ- ised and staffed by local ale and cider campaigners, featured 80 dif- ferent real ales, many brewed lo- cally, and 37 ciders and perries. Live music came fromCreeque Alley and the Leigh Highwood Band. Event organiser Jeff Tucker, said:

“Once again we were blessed with fantastic weather, which brought a bumper turnout, both from regular

festival-goers, aswell as first-timers. “Visitors told us howmuch they’d

enjoyed it andwere looking forward to coming back next year.” Ian Clennett, chairman of Maid-

stone and Mid-Kent Camra, said: “Thewonderful surroundingsmade the perfect backdrop for what has become a popular event for all the family, with our free bus service from local railway stations proving particularly popular.” A pledge by organisers to donate

the value of unused drinks tokens returned by visitors raised £255 for Kent Search and Rescue.


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