HEALTH bosses have promised frustrated patients a new telephone queuing system that has left some waiting for more than 30 minutes to book a doctor’s appointment will improve.

Healthcare provider Anglian Community Enterprise (ACE) launched the new Care Navigation system in January at its Epping Close surgery in Clacton, Frinton Road Medical Centre in Holland-on-Sea, Caradoc surgery n Frinton and at Green Elms surgery in Jaywick.

ACE introduced the new phone system after patients had been left queuing outside in the cold in a desperate bid to get a doctor’s appointment.

But patients have been left unimpressed by the new system after being forced to wait up to 30 minutes for calls to be answered – and some have even been cut off.

Jayne Hiley, director of operations at Anglian Community Enterprise, said the system – which has been designed by doctors and clinical staff and covers 22,750 patients - would lead to improvements.

She said: “We have introduced these changes in order to improve patient experience and access.

“Historically patients were queuing up in all weathers, especially first thing in the morning, in order to secure an appointment.

“Whilst we know some patients have experienced longer telephone waits than we would wish with the new system, we are monitoring the situation daily and making improvements as we progress.

“The system may not yet be perfect but it is a big improvement on how it used to be.

“In order to support this new way of working, we have purchased a new telephone system that enables call recording and a suite of performance reports in terms of how long patients are waiting, the longest phone calls and the number of calls not answered.

“We will be able to use these new reports to determine performance targets to support our overall aim of improvements.

“We appreciate the patience shown by our patients as we bed-in these changes which will lead to improved levels of service.”

Patient Ann Mahy, from Seafield Gardens, Holland-on-Sea, criticised the new Care Navigation system.

She said: "I tried to make an appointment for three days and finally after a 25 minute wait I was connected.

"In my opinion there is not enough staff to cope with all these new telephone lines.

"Patience is growing very thin so things will have to improve sooner rather than later."

Clacton East county councillor Colin Sargeant, who will be meeting with health officials over the issue, said the roll out of the new system has been "chaotic" and said there should have been more consultation with patients.

"We would have wanted to implement the rollout in phases, rather than it starting at all four surgeries on the same day," he said.

"ACE are telling the community it is only a handful of people who are having problems, but I have heard from a lot of people.

"I'm personally willing to book a hall for a public meeting so ACE can hear people's experiences."