GP practice 'will be forced to close' if it doesn't get promised broadband header image

Published: 14th Jan 2015

Thousands of people in a rural part of the West Country could be left without a GP, as a Herefordshire-based practice could have to permanently close its doors if it doesn't get the broadband it was promised.

The Western Daily Press reports that doctors at the Kingstone surgery, which has 4,250 registered patients and employs 17 members of staff, have been unable to access patient records on the central NHS database.

MP Jesse Norman, whose constituency is Hereford and South Herefordshire, has heard hundreds of similar complaints from residents and businesses that are angry about broadband connections that are getting slower with each passing month.

One irked resident told the politician that he was unable to live in his hometown as he couldn't run his business from there due to painfully slow speeds. Others have described how their lives have become blighted by poor connectivity and almost non-existent mobile phone signals.

Many from the rural community have reported speeds of below 1 Mbps, which is slower than the level of connectivity achieved 15 years ago. Over 90 per cent of residents and businesses told Mr Norman that this is a "serious problem".

Dr Richard Warner told the Western Daily Press that the slow speeds have meant that the GP practice hasn't been able to move across to a modern cloud-based computer system for the doctors.

He said: "It takes time to book appointments and download information like scans and X-rays, and while patients can make appointments they can't see their records or medication online. In March our computer system is being switched off by the supplier and we will have to use the cloud-based system, but it probably won't work."

"BT is supposed to have installed a dedicated fibre optic link but it is already two months late, despite NHS England having approved it and paid for it as I understand."

According to Dr Warner, he, the council and the NHS are struggling to find the right person to speak to at the firm and are constantly being passed between departments. He feels it could soon come to the point where staff will not be able to arrange appointments or tell patients about their records.