A FORMER Royal Air Force veteran is spearheading a campaign to improve the appointments system at the Bradford on Avon & Melksham Health Partnership.

Julian Derrick, of Derrick’s Digital Aerials in Bradford on Avon, served with the RAF’s air crash rescue service at RAF Odiham near Basingstoke in Hampshire.is now the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Chippenham for the Democrats & Veterans Party, a new political party formed by armed forces veterans.

Mr Derrick, 56, of St Aldhelm Road, posted a message on social media after being unable to gain a GP appointment last Friday morning to discuss surgery on his neck.

He said: “I spoke to the receptionist at the Bradford on Avon Health Centre who told me there were no appointments available and that I would have to wait until Monday.

“It’s very concerning, given that I have a spinal problem in my neck that may require surgery.

Mr Derrick said he had been overwhelmed with stories from patients who have suffered similar problems and worse.

One respondee, Jacqueline Evans posted: “I’m struggling to get any help from the surgery. Came out of hospital in February and now an amputee and cannot get a home visit. Frustrating.”

Another, Catherine Nash, said: “I’ve waited ten weeks just for a phone call for a prescription review. Someone’s health is going to seriously suffer if they don’t tackle this.”

A third, Kate Keirl said: “They have well and truly ballsed the system up and it will cost them more as people are just ringing 999.”

The partnership introduced a new telephone appointments system earlier this year but has since received numerous complaints from patients unable to get through or who have experienced difficulty in obtaining face-to-face appointments with their GP.

Ellen Wilson, the partnership’s finance/business manager, said: “Bradford on Avon & Melksham Health Partnership, along with other local surgeries in our area, are experiencing unpredicted demand for appointments. A growing number of these surgeries (for example; Frome, Giffords and Pultney Street), like ourselves, have moved to telephone consultation-led approaches, in an attempt to manage patient safety, unprecedented demand for GP appointments and a shortage of GPs/funding.

“We appreciate that the new system is not ideal for all of our patients and is causing concern,, and know that patient safety is something which is causing concern amongst the local community, but the partners feel that this appointment system keeps patients safe, with all urgent on-the-day patients assessed by a clinician.”