A doctor's surgery has responded after an Oxford Mail experiment found it took 32 minutes to answer the phone.

On Tuesday, the Oxford Mail rang 10 doctor’s surgeries in Oxford to assess the situation with phone waiting times.

The experiment came as Covid-19 rates continue to rise, the ‘super cold’ is spreading and one patient in the city told the Oxford Mail he waited over two hours on hold to speak with his GP.

The experiment found that answering times were mixed across the board with one surgery answering their phone in just 7 seconds and another, Summertown Health Centre, taking 32 minutes.

Dr Siobhan Becker, senior partner at Summertown Health Centre, described how demand is ‘incredibly high at the moment’ across the NHS and everyone is ‘struggling to keep up’.

Dr Becker said: “As a health centre we strive at all times to provide the best care possible for our patients, and our team has worked incredibly hard throughout the whole pandemic to maintain an excellent service.

“In the national GP patient survey, 99 per cent of our patients had ‘confidence and trust in the healthcare professional they saw or spoke to during their last general practice appointment’

“We are aware of the difficulty though in getting through on the phone, due to incredibly high levels of demand.”

Dr Becker noted that Summertown Health Centre is one of the busiest practices in Oxford and this week it is taking between 300 to 400 calls each morning.

Over the last four weeks, the surgery has taken 6,753 calls compared to 5,544 calls in the same period last year.

During this time it carried out 6,347 clinical contacts with patients either face to face, on the phone or video, or via eConsult. This compares to 5,811 for the same period last year.

In addition Dr Becker states that the surgery has delivered 3000 Covid vaccines with a ‘minimal notice period’ in addition to their usual work.

There ‘many difficulties’ facing General Practice at the moment, Dr Becker points out, including Covid-19 and very high levels of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in children.

Dr Becker said: “Secondary care services were decimated by Covid and have yet to recover. There are some services that we are still unable to refer into, such as ENT, and others where the wait for surgery is incredibly long, such as orthopaedics, so we are managing all of our patients needs in Primary Care.

“Chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma and COPD have not gone away in the pandemic; they all still need managing as usual.

“We are experiencing one the worse mental health crises of our time, and almost without exception, this is being managed by Primary Care.

“The wait times for Secondary care mental health services are immensely long and we are taking care of everyone while they wait.

She added: “In common with much of the country, we are experiencing workforce problems – we have an incredible team here at Summertown; everyone works extremely hard and goes above and beyond to provide the best care possible.

“Unfortunately, we are short staffed and have been advertising for 6 months to boost our admin team with no luck. We welcome any applicants who would like to come and join our dedicated team.”