Ambulance parked outside Tessa Jowell GP Surgery East Dulwich

‘Impossible’ app worsening GP access, say Tessa Jowell patients

The app created by the parent company of the care provider at Tessa Jowell GP Surgery is being cited by patients as a reason for worsening access.

Evergreen Health Solutions, whose Evergreen Life app is the primary means for booking appointments at the East Dulwich GP, also owns the surgery’s care provider Omnes Healthcare.

A CQC inspection of the surgery is due within a year after a 2023 report graded it Requires Improvement, citing patients’ difficulty accessing the practice.

Hannah Briggs, 32, a project manager in East Dulwich, said: “What should be a doctor’s problem, I’d now have to go to A&E because there’s absolutely zero chance of getting an appointment with my GP.”

Caroline Simpson, 64, is a conference producer who has been a patient at the surgery for 35 years and lives in Camberwell.

Simpson said: “That app is completely impossible. 

“You cannot get an appointment, it says you can but you can’t.”

She said Evergreen Life sends irrelevant messages including one urging her to contact a doctor immediately regarding a COPD diagnosis, despite being given the all-clear for the condition.

Simpson said: “For someone older than me or less used to dealing with the internet, that’s a horrible worry, to say ‘contact your doctor’ when you can’t because the app won’t allow you to.

“It will access your life in ways you don’t need and on many levels is unhelpful, but you cannot use it for what you need to do, which is access your healthcare professional.”

In response, Omnes Healthcare said: “Developments to our digital booking system are also scheduled to launch within weeks, which will extend our online booking availability and enable patients to book appointments further in advance where possible.

“Results due to be released soon from this year’s National Patient Survey will confirm patient feedback on how access to our services has improved.”

Tessa Jowell Health Centre East Dulwich
The Tessa Jowell Health Centre containing the GP surgery. Credit: Harry Hetherington

Omnes, who won the contract to take over the surgery in 2020, provides services at other sites in the ICS and elsewhere in London.

Until this month, one of those was Rainham Health Centre, but following patient complaints which included difficulties in getting appointments, the East London NHS foundation trust took over the contract.

Responding to this, Omnes said: “Working alongside our partners, any learnings gained are taken forward to inform, drive and enable enhancement of services across our practices, to meet patient needs and improve outcomes as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Both patients stressed they have no issue with the care they received when they have been able to access appointments. 

But the difficulty of access has led to patients like Briggs making decisions for themselves on their health.

Needing a doctor’s referral regarding her endometriosis, she said: “I probably put that off longer than I should have done because of the hassle of trying to make sure I was on at 8am and if I wasn’t on within four minutes in the morning. It took a while to ask them to refer me.”

Responding to the CQC report, NHS South East London said: “As with other areas, Southwark has seen an increase in demand for appointments, more complex support needed by patients and an increasing population. 

“Despite record numbers of appointments being offered, including extra appointments through the extended primary care service, patients can sometimes still have difficulty accessing a GP appointment.”

The extended service mentioned is delivered through the Tessa Jowell Health Centre and offers out-of-hours appointments to South Southwark patients.

NHS South East London did not comment on whether the added demand of the access service at the Health Centre makes it more difficult for Tessa Jowell GP patients to get appointments.

Tessa Jowell GP Surgery did not respond to a request for comment.

Featured image credit: Harry Hetherington

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