NEARLY half of GP patients across mid Essex reported having problems getting through to their practice on the phone, according to new figures.

Almost one in two patients – 48 per cent – said they had not found it easy to get through to someone at their practice on the phone. The national average was found to be around one in three – 32 per cent.

The worrying figures were revealed in the annual NHS GP Patient Survey which saw 12,001 surveys sent out across mid Essex, 5,138 of which were completed.

The worst-performing surgery across the CCG in terms of getting through by phone was found to be the highly-criticised Virgin Care-run Church Lane Surgery, in Braintree, where a huge 90 per cent of patients said they had had trouble getting through.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, just 4 per cent of patients registered to the Coggeshall Surgery said it was tricky to get through.

Dan Wellings, from the Kings Fund health care charity, said: “Once people are able to get into their local surgery their experience remains overwhelmingly positive, but getting through the door is a significant problem.

“People’s overall experience of making a GP appointment also continues to decline, while only a small proportion of patients are using online services.

“The Government’s funding boost for general practice and creation of new primary care networks offers the hope of being able to start to tackle these issues but only if they are supported to prioritise improving access and maintaining continuity of care.

“That nine out of ten patients say they have confidence and trust in their GP and the vast majority feel listened to and involved in decisions about their care is testament to the ongoing efforts of GPs to maintain high quality of care while working under significant pressure.”

Just 17 per cent of patients in mid Essex said they have used the online booking service in the past 12 months - the national average was found to be 15 per cent.

The CCG had not responded to the Standard’s request for a comment at the time of going to press.