OUR special report today has been looking into the 'diabolical' waiting times patients have faced recently to see their GP.

A number of patients have shared their stories with us about the the frustration it has caused and their fears over misdiagnosis.

One patient at St Mark’s Surgery in Connah’s Quay, who did not wish to be named, said in just one morning, she called the surgery nearly 200 times to get an appointment for her poorly daughter before she gave up and went to a pharmacist.

However, she was told she needed to speak to a GP before a referral could be made. Eventually she did get through.

She said: “It was incredibly difficult and stressful but I’m also thankful it wasn’t something that was really concerning and was an emergency.

“We needed the GP to see my daughter for a referral but if I had younger kids who weren’t well and it didn’t fall under the A&E category, I’d be flat out worrying."

The patient said telephone and video appointments have the ability to ‘work fabulous’ as this allows patients to be seen quicker and opens up time frames.

But she added: “Not all elderly people have internet connections. If they don’t have internet or family close by to help, how can they contact their doctor? It’s making it very difficult for them."

“The easy solution is more doctors, but we know there’s a national GP shortage.

“But if this isn’t sorted ASAP, it’s going to be a disaster. They thank people for being patient but heart diseases or cancer are not patient. People could be sitting with a tumour that they need a doctor to see and it runs into weeks and months.

“What could have been caught at Stage 1 will be lucky if it is caught at Stage 4 because they cannot see a doctor, it really is that serious.”

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'Commitment from staff hasn't changed'

Another patient at St Mark’s surgery, Katharina Simkiss, said she too has noticed a change in the level of appointments available.

She said: "The one thing that hasn’t changed is the hard work and commitment from the staff who go in to work every day and try to manage a complex workload in difficult circumstances.

"The demands on the primary care sector is not new but the pandemic has certainly not helped.

"The surgery appears to have done what it can by putting in place advanced nurse practitioners, e-consult and signposting to the very supportive local pharmacists."

Another patient shared her story with us of how she ended up in A&E after seeing her doctor with breathing difficulties.

Heather Hughes said she rang her GP at Hillcrest Surgery, Wrexham, on June 21 after struggling to breath but was unable to get an appointment after 35-minutes of trying.

On June 22 she was successful and managed to secure an appointment in which she was diagnosed with a chest infection and given anti-biotics.

However her condition deteriorated and on June 29 saw a different clinician which prescribed a further course of medication and tests.

On Sunday, July 4 her condition deteriorated further and she went to an out-of-hours service who also told her she had a chest infection.

But on Tuesday, it ‘became so bad’ that 111 advised her to attend A&E after she could not breathe and was in a ‘hell of a state’.

Heather said: “When we got there, it was an hour and half waiting time just to see triage and a further eight-hour wait to see a doctor.

“The place was packed, a staff member told us 80% of those waiting were neither accidents nor emergencies, they were people who under normal circumstances would’ve visited their GP surgeries.

“The NHS has saved my life countless time, I am so grateful for it and happy to pay my taxes to contribute but the idea of constant mis-diagnosis, struggling to get hold of a doctor, A&E being overwhelmed, there’s nowhere else to go.

“I don’t feel safe anymore and I still don’t know what is wrong with me. I finally got my results back on July 6 from tests on June 29 and I don’t have a chest infection.

“There’s a wider issue here, where are the GPs? There is a national shortage but the country isn’t training enough doctors.

“Pay doctors and nurses enough, keep them in the industry. Whatever it takes, we need to do it but it will be a government solution.”

Waiting times are 'totally unacceptable'

Concerns have been raised over the 'totally unacceptable' waiting times for getting an appointment at the Hillcrest Surgery, Wrexham.

One resident said they are constantly being told there are no available appointments, no matter what time you call.

Simon Jones, Assistant Director of Primary Care, said they are working to ‘re-establish the core General Practice services for Hillcrest, Borras and Forge Road’, adding: "The practice team are currently introducing changes to the appointment system to ensure patients are able to book an appointment and be seen in their preferred practice location."