A GP surgery serving thousands of Wickford people is in crisis, with resignations and staff illness making it hard for patients to get an appointment.
Some frustrated patients have been ended up waiting more than ten days to see a GP at the Robert Frew Medical Centre, in Silva Way.
Receptionists, tired of having to deal with angry patients, have even stuck a notice on the front door, asking them to behave.
The surgery should have seven GPs to look after the 14,160 patients on its books, mostly in the Wick area of town.
However, at present just four are working. Two of its GPs, Drs Shoab Ibrahim and Atef Wissa, are on long-term sick leave and not due back until May.
Dr Denish De Silva left the practice on April 1 and her replacement isn’t expected to start until June.
New mum Nikki Shade, 32, of Doeshill Drive, Wickford, was force to take her three-week-old baby, Mia, to a walk-in clinic in Chelmsford last week after being denied an appointment at the local surgery.
She said: “I went to the walkin centre, which wasn’t easy as I had had a Caesarean and can’t drive.
“They were amazed the doctors there wouldn’t see a two-week-old baby.
“Although it turned out to be nothing serious, it was still worrying.
"I didn’t even get the chance to tell the Wickford surgery what the problem was. It could have been anything.”
Holly Beard, 21, of Meadow Way, Wickford, has been trying to get an appointment for ten days.
She said: “I keep ringing up in the morning to get one. On Wednesday I was on the phone for 40 minutes, and when they finally picked up again, they didn’t have anything to offer me.
“They just keep saying ‘call back tomorrow’, but that phone number costs money to ring. It’s disgusting.”
Don Morris, Basildon councillor for Wickford Park, said: “It’s not good enough for people who use the surgery. If you are ill you need treatment.
“They should have got some locums in as soon as this started.
“Wickford is desperately short of provision, in terms of healthcare.”
One of the practice’s partner, Dr Oluwatoyin Ogunsanya, said it had proved hard to find a suitable replacement for Dr De Silva.
The job was now being readvertised, but he hoped to bring in a locum nurse practitioner in a few days to ease some of the burden.
Dr Ogunsanya said he had extended his own surgeryhours to allowmore people to be seen – yesterday he worked until 8pm.
He add: “People have been getting aggressive with our receptionists. I would not like to do their jobs at the moment.
“Unfortunately, NHS resources are not inexhaustible.
We all have to work together and patients have to help us to help them. They can help by turning up to the appointments they book.
“We give priority to children and we have been running extra clinics to cater for them, but people have to understand we have a difficult situation and we are trying to resolve it.”
WICKFORD doctors each have 400 more patients on their books than the national average.
There are 1,767 people in the town to every GP, according to figures from NHS England. The national average is 1,350, while in Essex the figure is 1,500 per GP.
Campaigners have long pointed to the town’s inadequate infrastructure when objecting to plans for new housing estates and blocks of flats, but Basildon Council has sanctioned the building of 2,400 new homes in Wickford between now and 2031.
Nina Kemp, 57, of Guernsey Gardens, said: “Wickford is overrun. They are building more and more housing and amenities like doctors surgeries can’t keep up.
“I was trying to get an appointment for something which wasn’t an emergency, but could have been serious.
“I couldn’t get an appointment.
I went to the Chelmsford walk-in centre instead, and was seen straight away.”
Work on a new health centre in Market Road, is due to start in September and be finished by October 2015.
Don Morris, Basildon councillor for Wickford Park, said: “For too long, Wickford residents have had to suffer belowstandard health provision.
“A group of councillors has taken the issue by the scruff of the neck and decided something needs to be done. We have worked to sort out the health centre in Market Road.”