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GSD will scrutinise changes to PCC appointments system

Photo by Johnny Bugeja.

The GSD said it will closely monitor GHA plans to revamp the appointments system at the Primary Care Centre, striking a cautious note that previous attempts at reform had “failed miserably”.

The GSD was reacting to news that the number of available GP appointments will increase as from Thursday under a new system that also allows for patients to book in advance with specific GPs, including online and via a new app.

Persistent complaints over many years showed the system was “dysfunctional”, the GSD said, adding more should have been done sooner to tackle the problem.

The GSD said it hoped the package of measures will “decisively” improve the community’s “experience, interaction and most importantly access” to GPs at the PCC.

But it noted too that this was not the first time that changes had been announced “with great fanfare” and that previous attempts to address longstanding patient concerns had not been successful.

“It is welcome that the Government and the new leadership at the GHA have again recognised that the appointment system which has been on its knees long before the pandemic needs to desperately change,” said Elliott Phillips, the Shadow Minister for Health.

“The Opposition has long advocated for the increased use of technology as the solution to many of the complaints of the system and we welcome the measures that have been announced today.”

“We will keep all changes under very close observation not least because we have been here before.”

Mr Phillips recalled that the Gibraltar Government had announced a new appointment system in 2018 ahead of the 2019 general election.

He said the then Health Minister, Neil Costa, had described complaints about calls to the PCC as a recurrent theme and that he had sought the advice of doctors to solve the problem.

“The complaints however continued and only six months ago the new Director General was promising further changes as part of the so-called Reset, Restart and Recover programme,” Mr Phillips said.

“Given the Government’s track record of making big fanfare announcements in this area that then fall flat people will be forgiven for waiting to see whether these big promises finally come to fruition.”

“It appears that Government has on the one hand increased the availability of appointments and publicly warned people about the responsible use of modified GHA resources.”

“We take the view that the Government should have done much, much more about the dysfunctional appointment system given that complaints are not new and have been voiced for many years.”

“For the Government to suggest to the public, including elderly and vulnerable people, who have been struggling to access appointments over a number of years, that they have not been acting responsibly is patronising and unhelpful.”

“Whilst everyone will hope that GHA resources are used wisely and properly by the public, the Government and the leadership in the GHA need to do more work on the ground to restore trust and confidence in our health service and put in place other support systems through which patients can get advice if they wish to persuade people not to rely on the primary care system for all their initial needs.”

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