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New repeat prescription service comes under fire from patients

PATIENTS of Giffords Surgery have expressed their frustration at the new service for ordering repeat prescriptions, with many complaining about long wait times to speak to an adviser and the cost of calls.

The new service has been branded “an absolute joke” by patients and concern has been raised about the difficulties in getting through, especially for the more vulnerable in the community.

Last month, patients of Giffords Surgery were told that they were no longer able to make repeat prescription requests via post, phone or in person at the surgery. Instead, they would have to use the Prescription Ordering Direct (POD) service or register online to order their repeat prescriptions.

Many patients have taken to social media to vent their frustration. “The new prescription order direct service at Giffords is an absolute joke. Been trying to get my daughter’s medication ordered for days and can’t get through,” said one patient on the Sham Shoutouts Facebook page, sparking off the debate.

“Spent all day yesterday trying to get through, ridiculous,” added Mayor of Melksham, cllr Adrienne Westbrook.

Margaret Brooks said, “I have been trying on/off for two days, absolutely rubbish. Keep getting cut off, (not everybody’s got computers to order online). Will try again tomorrow, third day lucky hopefully, fingers crossed, so frustrating.”

Anita Stone agreed, “I know, it took me three days to get through for my 90-year-old dad’s pills. Then (they) said not ready (until) next week. Crap.”

Concern has also been raised about the impact the new service is having on the older people in the community. Patient of Giffords Surgery, Barbara Cropp, who struggled to get through on the phone after being told that it would take up to seven days to register online said, “My worry is that although this should be a “one-off” cost for me as I do have a computer, many elderly people do not have either a computer or a mobile phone, which means that if this is a Wiltshire-wide initiative, elderly people will have to pay telephone charges for their repeat prescriptions, although the prescription itself is free.”

Chair of Melksham Seniors, Brain Warwick said, “We are deeply concerned that older people are being put at risk, especially over the Christmas period and we have requested the CCG to review their procedures for the festival season, to ensure nobody is at risk by not having their medication.”

The Melksham Seniors group has invited NHS Wiltshire to their meeting on Monday 15th January at 1.15pm to give a presentation about the new service.

“The public will have their opportunity to express their views and make suggestions for a better system,” added Brian.

In response to the complaints and worries, Giffords Surgery says they will allow patients to make repeat prescription requests at the surgery until the end of December. A spokesperson said on Facebook,  “Thank you for all of your comments. We have been made aware that there are issues contacting the POD, these issues have been relayed back and are being addressed. In the interim the surgery will allow a grace period until the end of December.

“Our aim is to ensure that patients are receiving the correct quantity of medication that they need in a timely manner, to help reduce the amount of prescription waste in our area. Unused prescription medicines cost the NHS £2.7million every year in Wiltshire. Reducing wastage will enable the NHS to spend this money on other important services.”

The service launched in April in Wiltshire and is being rolled out to GP practices on a town-by-town basis, with the aim to roll it out to all of the county’s practices over the next couple of years.

Tracy Torr, communications and engagement officer, for NHS Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said, “The prescription ordering direct service is new and we completely understand that people are concerned when they can’t get through to the service.  We also apologise for the deep frustration people feel.

“We are taking extraordinarily high numbers of calls currently – up to 900 calls a day, and we ask people to please be patient while they are waiting to talk to a trained prescription coordinator.  Orders are currently taking longer than usual to process because people are ringing to order their medication to cover the Christmas period. Your call will be dealt with, so please do keep trying.  We are currently training more coordinators so that we are able to manage the high levels of calls and to help cut the time that people are waiting.

“The prescription ordering direct service was introduced in April this year, as a way to help patients order only the repeat medication that they need. The service is currently being provided from seven surgeries in Wiltshire.

“There is no need to register to use the service.   Patients just call the POD when they have 7 days of medication left.  For those patients who are unable to ring to use this service, they can order their repeat medication using the online service offered by their GP practice, or alternatively they can speak to a member of staff at their GP practice who will discuss with them other ways they can order their medication.”

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