ST. Paul's Surgery has issued an apology letter to their patients due to long wait times when booking an appointment over the phone.

Following a recent investigation by the Chronicle, we found it took 19 attempts to be placed into a queue, with the operator 'on another line'. Once in the queue, it took a further 18 minutes to get through to a receptionist to book an appointment.

The statement read: "Here at St Paul’s Surgery (NHS GP Practice in Winchester) we pride ourselves on high quality care and patient satisfaction. We were pleased by Hampshire Chronicle’s secret shopper article and our delightful patient comments however were ashamed by the telephone attempts and time in which it took to answer.

"It should come as no surprise to you that the NHS is in crisis at present due to the unprecedented increase in demand. As a practice we have seen a 42% rise in call traffic and a 21% rise in appointment requests comparing pre pandemic levels against the past 6 months.

"As a practice we have always fared well in the speed in which our calls are answered compared to local and national benchmarks. With the 42% of new call traffic and due to clinicians carrying out more outgoing telephone contacts our telephony infrastructure has reached its maximum. The reason some patients get an engaged tone is that we simple do not have enough phone lines. We recognised this early on and ordered a new phone system in September 2021 and are awaiting its arrival. Again this is a nationally recognised issue hence being included in the Primary Care Rescue package.

"In short we apologise for the telephone wait times that our patients are experiencing and we have committed and are awaiting the infrastructure to resolve this.

"FYI our peak call times are 08:00 – 10:00 and 12:00 – 14:00 daily. If your call is not urgent then we encourage contact outside of these times or via our online eConsult service.

"Many thanks for your patience and understanding.

"Take care

"St Pauls Surgery"