People in South Manchester have had their say on how changes to GP surgeries are affecting them.

Since the start of the pandemic, the way communities access services from GPs has changed.

In certain areas, online forms and telephone consultations have replaced face-to-face appointments.

And earlier this week, the Manchester Evening News spoke to a doctor, who told of the struggles GPs are facing.

Read more:Jason Manford's struggle to get a GP appointment sparks huge debate

Dr Manisha Kumar, GP at Rusholme Health Centre, said doctors are facing unprecedented demand due to a combination of factors.

These include ill health due to Covid-19, unmet health need due to the pandemic, the backlog of elective care procedures, and changes to care in the community.

She told the MEN: "The problems people are presenting with are difficult - they've kept away from healthcare for so long because they've been not wanting to burden the NHS, or not wanting to come in because they're scared of covid."

One of the biggest changes to the way surgeries are run is the move to the digital world - patients might now been seen via video calls or they may email in pictures to surgeries.

Dr Kumar said doctors are still seeing the majority of new patients in person, but they have 'opened an extra lane of the motorway'.

The MEN went out to Chorlton to ask residents what they think of these changes.

Of those asked, most do not think the changes are for the better and believe that they have made it more difficult to get a face-to-face appointment with a doctor.

Stuart Caverly, of Stretford, finds the new systems make it very difficult to get an in-person appointment with a doctor.

Stuart Caverly talks to the MEN about GP surgeries
Stuart Caverly of Stretford

He said: “It’s appalling. You just can’t get an appointment with a doctor.

“My wife needs tablets and because we couldn’t see a doctor, we couldn’t get them.

“Everybody you see says the same.

“Half the time you have a phone appointment with a clinician. Whatever that is.

“I can understand using the forms, but not everyone has access to the internet or is computer literate.”

He added that he doesn't see why surgeries have not returned to their former services when Covid related restrictions have been lifted.

David Dickson of Fallowfield discusses his thoughts on GPs
David Dickson thinks the new system is both good and bad

“They’ve opened football, they’ve opened nightclubs, why haven’t they opened surgeries?”

The change to 'total triaging', where patients are seen remotely for assessment, either by filling in an online consultation form or through ringing the surgery for a telephone consultation has received mixed reactions.

David Dickson, from Fallowfield, believes that 'You can’t see anyone' and said that while the online and telephone system had good and bad merits, overall he'd 'rather see a doctor face-to-face.'

When discussing the online service, David said: “It depends how serious the problem is, it’s debatable how it’s being dealt with. You know, they still arrange tests. You can still get tested.”

One Old Trafford resident, Shivani Attri, still thinks that even with the online system it isn't easy to contact GPs and the communication systems still need improvements.

Shivani Attri talks to the MEN about GPs
Shivani Attri thinks GPs need to improve communication

She said: “It’s very difficult to contact them. They should have more phone facilities.

“It’s a pain to contact them, more than the pain we’re in.”

But some people welcomed the changes.

Jo Langley, a Chorlton resident, believes that the change in system is very positive.

She is pleased about the move away from the entirely telephone based system.

Jo and Arlo Langley spoke to MEN in Chorlton
Jo and Arlo Langley, Jo thinks the changes are positive

She said: “I’m at Chorlton medical practice, they’ve gone onto a really good system. You fill out a form and get a response within two to four hours.

“You either get a FaceTime consultation or it’s over the form.

“It’s one of the really positive things to come out of the pandemic, not having to ring for an appointment and just getting engaged, engaged, engaged.

“It’s not a dread to contact the doctors anymore.

“The only issue is if people don’t have access to online.”

Kitty Carton, from Chorlton, shared Jo's concerns about using the online system.

She told the MEN how she had struggled to sort out her prescriptions using the online system and had been sent to multiple pharmacies by her GP as her medicine was out of stock when she had gone to collect it.

Kitty Carton spoke to the MEN in Chorlton about her struggles with the online systems
Kitty Carton has struggled with the online systems

She said: “For someone like me who isn’t comfortable with online, [the system] is hard.

“I’m okay with the phone consultations. I’m at Corkland. It’s fairly well run. It’s easy to get an emergency appointment.

“But it became unbearable, trying to get prescriptions.

“It’s on my mind to talk to an MP, it’s a government issue.

“My friend goes to Boots in town [for prescriptions] and always gets her medicine. Here in Chorlton, it’s very patchy.”

Corkland Road Medical Practice has been contacted for comment.

"Please support us as we work through our busiest period"

Local doctors from Greater Manchester have urged people to be patient and supportive as they deal with more patients than 'ever before'.

Dr Tracey Vell, GP and lead for primary care at Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “Additional safety measures, like wearing face coverings and limiting the number of people in practices at a time are still in place for the NHS, this is to ensure that we can still provide effective services and keep our most vulnerable patients and staff protected.

“Being able to offer a mixture of email, telephone and face-to-face appointments allows your practice to assess and respond to more of your requests more quickly and this applies at all times, including during emergencies like pandemics.

“Despite receiving some really positive feedback in the recent national GP patient survey we know not everyone is always receiving the best service at the moment and we have to be honest about that.

"The demand on our services is unprecedented and sometimes we cannot meet the demands with the current workforce and aftermath of the pandemic.

“If your GP feels that a face-to-face appointment is required, this will be arranged and patients will be seen by a GP or another appropriate member of clinical staff, which has been the case right the way through the pandemic.

“Most common conditions can be assessed and diagnosed by your GP via telephone or video consultation.”

Dr Tim Dalton, a GP in Wigan and chair of NHS Wigan CCG, said: “GP practices are seeing a rise in demand which is higher than we would expect to see at this time of year. We are working hard to treat patients as soon as we can and we ask for patience while we do that.

“GP practices are seeing a rise in demand which is higher than we would expect to see at this time of year"

“Some practices will use a telephone first system to help manage the rising number of contacts or asking patients to use their online service if possible, to ensure everyone gets the most appropriate support for their needs.

“As well as GPs and practice nurses, there are other health professionals like pharmacists, physiotherapists and social prescribers working to support our patients. Our receptionists’ role is to assign the right health professional for you, so they may need to ask some questions about your condition. They will treat your information in the same strict confidence that medical professionals do.

“This way of working is essential to helping us continue to provide our service, including seeing patients whose condition means they need to be seen by a GP.

“We’d like to thank all our patients for working with us throughout the pandemic and for still wearing face-coverings, following social distancing rules and for their continued kindness and support when using our services.”