Furious patients have demanded answers after a South London surgery stopped people booking appointments because of a broken computer.

People registered at Hilly Fields Medical Centre in Lewisham have been unable to see a doctor for non-urgent problems for almost a week.

A notice on the practice website initially told patients they would be unable to book appointments from 1pm on March 11 until March 15. 

But the surgery was still refusing to let some patients see a doctor on March 17.

The notice has since been updated and an end date removed. 

News Shopper: Message on the Hilly Fields Medical Centre website March 16 (photo: Screenshot from Hilly Fields Medical Centre website)Message on the Hilly Fields Medical Centre website March 16 (photo: Screenshot from Hilly Fields Medical Centre website)

Hilly Fields Medical Centre blamed the lack of non-urgent appointments on its merger with several other Lewisham GPs.

It said software that is needed to book appointments would remain offline until all patients’ details had been transferred over. 

The surgery is joining with four other Lewisham surgeries to form the The Lewisham Care Partnership. These GPs are: St Johns Medical Centre, Morden Hill Surgery, Belmont Hill Surgery and Honor Oak Group Practice.

Patients registered with the GP have been unable to get repeat prescriptions processed, check their medical records or receive replies to emails during the changeover. 

Residents registered with the surgery in Ladywell branded the lack of appointments unacceptable on social media.

One patient expressed anger that the practice had known about the merger months in advance, but hadn’t been able to ensure people could still receive treatment.

Another patient said they had resorted to calling the NHS helpline 111 for advice about Covid.

Despite receiving some support by telephone, they said they still urgently needed a doctor’s appointment.

Several people complained they had been unable to book an appointment with the surgery through Patient Access – a website and app that lets people make arrangements to see a doctor. 

But others said the situation was out of the surgery’s control and said it was doing its best in a difficult situation.

They said Hilly Fields Medical Centre had given people plenty of notice about the suspension of appointments. 

When the Local Democracy Reporting Service tried to book an appointment with Hilly Fields Medical Centre through the Patient Access on March 16, an error message said the practice didn’t support the website.

There was no answer when the surgery’s number was telephoned. An automated voice message said the practice was closed for staff training and would reopen on March 17.

Colin Stears, managing partner at The Lewisham Care Partnership, said patients would be unable to book appointments until all records had been updated.

He said: “We knew this was going to take time. My staff at Hilly Fields have sent lots of emails out, texts, it has been on the website. We knew this was going to happen but it’s beyond our control. There is still a triage system for those patients that need to see a GP urgently.”

He said that as of 9am on March 17, there was only 13 patients’ records that were still waiting to be moved over.

As soon as these details have been transferred, Mr Stears said patients would be able to book appointments as normal online and over the phone.

But he said people would have to wait longer before they could once again use the Patient Access app.

Mr Stears added: “I would like to praise the staff. It has been a little bit challenging both for staff and patients. We do ask patients to respect our staff. Sadly some haven’t. Some have actually not been very nice to staff. Everyone has got to respect each other.”

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