PATIENTS are banned from booking advanced appointments at a Dorset doctors’ surgery because there are no salaried GPs.

Wareham Surgery is only allowing people to book to see a locum doctor on the same morning or same afternoon they call.

It means its 8,000 patients have just a four hour window to get an appointment and are being urged to tell the receptionist ‘as much information as possible’.

The practice has admitted patients may not be seen but they said they have been forced to make the ‘difficult decision’ because one GP is off with a broken hip, another has resigned and they have had ‘no response’ to job adverts.

Healthwatch Dorset has branded the situation ‘simply unacceptable’ and have called for action after concerned residents fear for the future.

One patient said: “It is a crisis and exposes the severity of the situation here in Dorset.

“Wareham has hundreds of new houses on the town plan, there are plans to close surgeries as part of Dorset CCG’s vision for Dorset and yet Wareham can’t even offer appointments to the current people on their books.”

The surgery advised patients to call between 8.30am and 10.30am for a morning appointment and between 2pm and 4pm for an afternoon appointment.

A statement read: “We have made the difficult decision to temporarily put a stop to forward booking of GP appointments.

“Depending on demand we may not be able to provide an appointment and may have to ask you to call back on the following day. We will see patients who need to be seen urgently. We are very sorry for this situation but the circumstances are beyond our control.”

As reported last week, two in five GPs in the South West intend to quit in the next five years, according to a survey exposing the severity of the region’s impending healthcare crisis.

In September, the practice, which is rated good in all areas by the CQC and outstanding for elderly care, posted online explaining why patients were having ‘difficulty booking routine appointments.’ “In short, the workload is becoming unmanageable but we are doing our best to cope with it,” it read.

Healthwatch Dorset manager Martyn Webster last night said: “We understand the difficulties they’re facing at the Wareham practice.

“But that doesn’t alter the fact that their new appointment system means that patients can’t book an appointment with their GP in advance, but can only phone in on the day - and that’s simply unacceptable. The practice seems to be giving no indication of when, or if, this situation will be rectified.”

“We think that they and NHS Dorset CCG and the local office of NHS England need to let local people know what they’re doing to put this right.”