Doncaster hospitals blame surge in calls for lengthy phone delays
Hospital chiefs in Doncaster have blamed a surge in the number of calls for the lengthy phone delays driving some patients to distraction.
Several patients have left scathing reviews on the NHS Choices website over the last couple of months about calls to Doncaster Royal Infirmary going unanswered, reportedly leading to delayed appointments in some cases.
Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the infirmary, says it has been receiving around 18,000 extra calls a week to its switchboard over the last few months.
The trust has apologised to patients who have experienced long phone delays, and claims action is being taken to handle the huge increase in the volume of calls.
Alan Williams told how he tried to arrange a physiotherapy appointment at the infirmary but gave up after calling the switchboard a dozen times over two days, with the phone ringing for a minute each time before cutting out.
The 71-year-old retired police officer, from New Rossington, says he was also given several wrong numbers by his GP surgery, another hospital and on the infirmary's own website.
"I had never had any problems contacting the hospital before, and I believe this is a disgrace which ought to be sorted out as a matter of urgency," he said.
Five patients in the last couple of months have complained via the NHS Choices website, which allows people to rate hospitals, about phone calls to the infirmary going unanswered.
One person, who claimed to have made around 100 calls in an attempt to book a gynaecology appointment, labelled the situation a 'farce'.
Another told how he had eventually booked an appointment via phone after days spent trying, only to miss a call telling him the appointment was cancelled and then being unable to get through again.
A third patient said he was so frustrated at failing to get through by phone he planned to report the matter to the health ombudsman.
Simon Marsh, chief information officer at the hospitals trust, said: "Over the past number of months we have been experiencing an increasing number of calls to our hospital switchboard, around 18,000 each week, which has resulted in delays in some calls being answered quickly.
"We apologise to our patients who have not been able to contact the service they require and we are currently looking into ways to increase our call handling capacity in order to alleviate this issue.
"In September, we launched our new website which contains direct phone numbers to all hospital wards and departments which we urge patients, relatives and visitors to use in the first instance. In addition to this we are asking all wards and departments to ensure they display the direct dial number for people to use, further reducing the reliance on switchboard."
He added that the trust receives nearly four million phone calls each year for Doncaster Royal Infirmary alone.