Outrage as York GP practice says no routine appointments until August 17

A YORK GP practice has caused shock and outrage after telling patients it will not be offering routine appointments for almost a month – because it is moving to a new IT system.

Unity Health, which has two York surgeries – Kimberlow Hill near the University of York and Wenlock Terrace off Fulford Road – sent patients a short message yesterday telling them: “We are moving to a new IT system at the beginning of August. No appointments will be available from now until 17th August for all clinicians unless it’s an acute medical problem.

“Please call from this date onwards if you require a routine appointment.”

One patient told The Press they were a type 1 diabetic and took the ongoing management of their condition very seriously, and relied on regular reviews and support from the clinical team at Unity.

They said: “To be advised, without any prior notice, that routine access is not available for a whole month is shocking, and I’m sure there are many patients with far greater need for ongoing medical care than me.”

Andrew Mortimer, a local resident who will be impacted by the plans, said: “It’s really worrying to not be able to have any access to my GP for nearly a month.

“I absolutely appreciate the pressures our GPs are under, but to stop access to primary care for a month due to IT changes seem unreasonable and dangerous.

“I worry that the impact of this move will stretch well beyond just this month, as the missed appointments and growing demand will have to be addressed nearing the busy autumn and winter months.

“We have had issues accessing local GPs as well as dentists for a considerable time now, so this decision will only worsen the situation and prolong the crisis.”

Another patient, Catherine Turnbull, said that when she received the message, she was ‘appalled, incredulous and very concerned for all patients who rely on local primary care services.’

She said: “Putting routine access to ‘all clinicians’ on hold for four weeks, as Unity Health has, risks missing potentially lifesaving reviews and examinations and those that are essential to maintaining good health.”

Cllr Nigel Ayre,executive member with responsibility for health integration at City of York Council, said: “It’s simply unacceptable that vulnerable residents with long term conditions will now face weeks of no access to vital medical support or medication reviews.

“GPs continue to go above and beyond, working tirelessly despite the pressures of the pandemic and the impact of chronic long term underfunding. However, I am deeply concerned that this move by Unity Health will have serious impact on the most vulnerable.

“As thousands across the city already struggle to access primary care day to day, this news will only further add to growing issues in York and is likely to have a knock-on impact on our hospital and A&E.

“I will be urgently contacting representatives of Unity Health and raising the matter at a meeting of the Health and Care Alliance on Monday, to see if anything can be done to retain access to crucial primary care for thousands of York residents.”

York Central MP Rachael Maskell told The Press: “Rationing health care has been taken to a new level. We know that the NHS is absolutely on its knees, GPs and practice staff do not have a moment to draw breath, and patients are waiting longer and longer to receive the care they need.

“Government has been warned time and again to have a workforce plan, and despite promises, have missed multiple deadlines in delivering a plan. Instead, they have reorganized the NHS and pushed risk and blame onto GPs and hospitals.

“However, we need a response to this crisis where everyone can be assessed and receive timely treatment. A missed diagnosis, as we know in our city, could be a death sentence.”

She called for an immediate crisis plan – “this will need to be like a ‘war time’ effort to ensure that safe and timely care is delivered to all.”

The Press has asked Unity Health to comment on its decision and respond to the criticisms made, and will publish its comments when received.

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