A FORMER surgery worker has quit over fears for patients’ safety after the controversial introduction of a telephone queuing system.

The whistleblower, who asked to remain anonymous, worked at one of the surgeries run by healthcare provider Anglian Community Enterprise, which switched to the new Care Navigation telephone system in January.

The system cover 22,750 patients at its Epping Close surgery in Clacton, Frinton Road Medical Centre, in Holland-on-Sea, Caradoc surgery, in Frinton and at Green Elms surgery, in Jaywick.

It was brought in after patients had been left queuing outside in the cold in a desperate bid to get a doctor’s appointment, but patients have criticised the system after being left waiting on the line for more than 30 minutes to book an appointment.

The worker said: “I worked at an Ace surgery and have first-hand experience of the problems.

“We were a very efficient and well-run surgery, but this new system has changed all that.

“As well as the telephone system joining together, the secretaries, prescription clerks, and managers have all the gone to the hub, resulting in only two staff – one on reception, one on phone – with an assistant manager, at a surgery.”

They said while the new telephone system has caused problems for patients, there are also other “worrying concerns”.

“The telephone system is not the only problem as other jobs at the surgery are not being performed,” they said.

“Clerks are having to take laptops home to do complete repeat prescriptions.

“There are also problems with scanning on patients records, tasks from doctors for actions, benefits, DVLA and solicitor reports and diabetic and respiratory recalls.

“Our new title is care navigator, but care has gone out of the window and I fear for the patients’ safety.

“As Ace have not acknowledged these problems and are not prepared to amend anything, I have very reluctantly handed in my notice.”

Jayne Hiley, director of operations at Anglian Community Enterprise, said change invariably involves teething issues and that some aspects of the changes – especially telephone waiting times – still need improvement.

She said: “The staffing profile of the new system was configured to ensure staff are where the phone and back-office activity is, which is no longer at the individual surgeries, hence the reduced number of non-clinical staff at the surgeries.

“Ace has many staff working with laptops and it is part of modern-day mobile working solutions.

“We have robust policies and procedures in place to protect patient identifiable information and to ensure security.

“All documents coming in to the practices are ‘triaged’ for urgent attention and actioned. The documents are then scanned into the patient records.

“We do have a small backlog of scanning and additional paid hours have been offered to existing staff plus we have brought in additional staff to clear this.

“I can assure everyone that patient care – the quickest and most appropriate care – is integral to our new system.

“We accept there is still room for improvements, but we remain totally committed to making this new system work in a way which will offer an improved, more responsive service to patents.

“We have brought about changes but we have the same number of staff, the same number of available appointments, patients are being seen and prescriptions issued.

“Duty doctors are in place as they always have been and urgent on-the-day appointments are being managed.”

Mrs Hiley added that the icy weather conditions last week demonstrated how the new system works better.

“Under the old system, we would have seen patients queuing outside in such weather in an attempt to book an appointment,” she said.

“When snow drifting temporarily closed Green Elms surgery at Jaywick on Thursday, patients were still able to phone in to the telephone hub and, if necessary, offered appointments at the Minor Illness Unit at Clacton Hospital or at one of the other practice bases which did manage to stay open.”