Patients in the leafy suburb of Sunbury-on-Thames are having to queue up before 7am every morning if they wish to see their doctor.
The images of patients shivering in the cold, which the Daily Mail reported, have been used to demonstrate the crisis the Health Service is currently in.
With phone lines not open until 0830hrs, the only chance ill people have of seeing a GP on the day is to stand in line from around 0630hrs in the morning, hoping to get an on-the-day appointment.
For those too ill to make the journey, by the time they manage to speak to a receptionist on the telephone, most of the appointments have been allocated.
The surgery is not open at evenings or weekends thanks to Labour legislation in 2004 which allowed GPs to opt out of providing the service which is desperately needed by those in full time jobs – particularly, as is the case for residents of these types of towns – for those who face long commutes into work.
The surgery has 12 GPs, although some of them only work three days a week. Four of them were recruited in the last year to cope with the increasing demand and they expect to have to recruit more.
Situated on a main thoroughfare, it was originally designed for 6,000 patients but now serves nearly 19,000. Anyone wanting an appointment in advance was last week told the earliest was not available until the second week in January.
Speaking to Breitbart London, patients were very clear who they blamed for the shambles, with angry residents in the queue saying the surgery had taken on far too many migrants.
One woman, who had been waiting in line to pick up an urgent prescription said “the surgery should only accept those who had paid into the health system”.
And one of the chilly residents queuing was retired nurse Sue Levi, 63, who said she was trying to make an appointment for her ill grandchild.
“You can’t bring a sick baby to queue in the cold at 7am. The nearest surgeries other than this are miles away.”
Another, Charlotte Cox described the situation as “absolutely ridiculous.”
“It’s the third time I’ve been down here in the past week. The first time I didn’t manage to get an appointment, the second time I did but I had to stand in the rain and then again today. It’s not right.”
Tina Zander pointed out the severe impact on more vulnerable patients. “What if you are elderly and living on your own? You can’t expect them to come and queue. The surgery can’t take any more. It’s disgusting.”
But this is not unique to Sunbury Health Centre, with most people registered at GP surgeries in and around London and other major towns and cities saying they have a similar problem. But many of these take the view that if people are well enough to walk to the surgery then they do not need an urgent appointment.
Sunbury’s Tory MP Kwasi Kwarteng said: “We have been trying to work this out with NHS England and we have not got as far as I would like. It’s bursting at the seams and it can’t continue much longer.”
Yet the local borough council has been approving further housing developments which will fall in the catchment area of the surgery and well as adding to traffic and local school shortages.
A spokesman for Sunbury Health Centre said there had been an increase in patients seeking appointments before the Christmas holidays. It added: “We are currently reviewing our system. Although there may be a queue on certain mornings, all patients who require an appointment will be seen or telephoned by a GP the same day.”
NHS England said: “We are aware of the challenges faced by Sunbury Health Centre and we are working closely with the practice to support them.” The practise has requested additional money or new premises to cope with demand.
Dr Maureen Baker, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Every patient should be able to see their family doctor when they need to. Unfortunately, what we are seeing now is a sad consequence of the desperate shortage of GPs in many parts of the country.”
In a letter from Mr Kwartang to a local resident complaining about the service, he highlighted that a key problem facing local health centres was that no proof of residence was required for temporary residence applications, which last for fifteen days and can be renewed.
Last month Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted taking his children to his local A&E because no weekend appointments were available. This is very costly for the GP surgery to which the patient is registered, who are charged around £100 for every patient of theirs who attends the emergency facilities compared around £30 for the cost of a patient seeing their GP directly.