One of Swindon's doctors surgery groups has had problems with a new appointments system, I understand for nearly six months, and their patients are bringing additional work to the local hospital walk-in emergency provision because they are unable to get through on the phone.
I am aware, from the comments made by one of the GP leaders that they wish to encourage "on-line" and self-service appointment making.
So what do I take from this?
I'm very happy that we have and intend to maintain a Crime and Communication Centre in Wiltshire, based in Devizes, offering a telephone based service for the people of Swindon and Wiltshire - 24/7. The performance has fallen below the acceptable level in the past but resources have been put in to maintain the service level.
Over the past few years there has been a lot of pressure to reduce costs - one of which was to move to a regional call answering service. This will not happen in Wiltshire - it is not on the agenda - it is not what the people of Swindon and Wiltshire want from the service they fund.
The second solution offered is to move on-line. Here, I want to be really clear about two things:
1. I believe that on-line reporting is a facility that is needed and should be developed.
2. However, this will not be done in a way which in anyway is forced on the public. While we may encourage a change to this cyber solution we must always recognise that there will be people, and a great number of them, who want to speak on the phone and cannot deal with the unfamiliar process of on-line whilst dealing with a crisis.
The change will come in time - to force it by the withdrawal of a service is the wrong way though. Let's plan for the withering of the phone service, not the removal.