A PENSIONER from Dilton Marsh has labelled the Wiltshire Prescription Ordering Direct service a disgrace and has called for changes to make life easier for patients.
Retired Wiltshire College and University Centre lecturer Maurice Flanagan says the service is being overwhelmed by too many calls and not enough staff.
The 67-year-old has complained to the POD provider, NHS Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group and to Dr Andrew Murrison, the MP  for South West Wiltshire, about the service.
Mr Flanagan, of Whitecroft, Dilton Marsh, said: “I find this service hopeless - it is only open restricted hours Monday to Friday. There is often no service at all as it is overwhelmed with phone calls and clearly too few staff. 
“It delays prescription times and is an unnecessary extra step in obtaining repeat prescriptions. It is in addition a deterrent to patients applying to get the necessary drugs they need and is totally dependent on access to and use of a telephone.”
“I previously just picked up my prescriptions on a regular basis without having to re-order or use a telephone. The use of telephones is increasingly archaic and has been superceded by emails, texts whatsapp or online ordering. Telephone ordering is a thing of the past century.”
He fears els the new system is a cost-saving measure designed to save the NHS spending millions of pounds on drugs as some patients are missing prescriptions because they cannot get through to order them.
Dr Murrison says he will look into the complaint, adding: “I’d be interested in any survey work done with patients, as I have not had much feedback on this to date.”
An NHS Wiltshire CCG spokesman said: “Since May 1 2018 we have received three complaints about the service. 
“On average we take 19,000 calls a month; the average length of time a patient is on the phone speaking to a call handler and receiving the service is between six and seven minutes.”
“In June this year we know that people were waiting longer than normal for their call to be answered, and this was because of a shortage of staff that month.  We have now recruited an additional five members of staff and call wait times are much shorter.”
“The Prescription Ordering Direct service launched on May 8 2017 and is available Monday-Friday, excluding Bank Holidays, from 9am-5pm. 
“The POD allows people to order their medication seven days before they run out, and reduces the amount of medication which is ordered unnecessarily and wasted.  
“In Wiltshire, £2.7million is spent each year on unused medication, so any reduction is beneficial and the savings put back into other vital services.   
“When patients order their medicines directly, we can confirm that the medication is being ordered on time for the patient, and order only what is needed on behalf of the patient.  
“The POD service is not compulsory – patients can order prescriptions online and your GP practice will be able to provide you with log in details.  We encourage patients to visit their GP practice’s website to get information on how to do this.”