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Mum-of-two dies while waiting two hours on phone for doctor's appointment

A mother-of-two died suddenly while waiting on the phone for nearly two hours for a doctor’s appointment, her family has claimed.

Relatives of popular baker Helena Maffei, described as the ‘soul of Kidderminster’, say she was trying to get a GP appointment for breathing difficulties when she collapsed at home in front of her son.

Paramedics rushed there and gave the 55-year-old CPR but were unable to revive her and she passed away on Thursday morning.

Her death comes as GPs have been urged to reinstate face-to-face appointments amid growing concern at the number of people struggling to see doctors in person.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs earlier this month the Government ‘intends to do a lot more’ to ensure this happens, adding that ‘more GPs should be offering face-to-face access’ now that we are ‘way past’ the height of the pandemic.

Mrs Maffei’s daughter Gaetana Maffei, 30, from Stourbridge, said: ‘Mum had been having health anxieties and so was trying to get an appointment as she was feeling breathless, but was hanging on the phone from 8.30am to 10.15am trying to get through.

‘Her phone battery died during the call and she had to ring back and get in line.

‘She got through just as she collapsed, and the receptionist was saying a doctor would call her back at 11.30am.

‘My brother Giuseppe rang the ambulance and was giving her CPR and the paramedics did too when they arrived, but it was too late.

‘It’s a real shock for the family. She passed away in my brother’s arms and it is just the saddest thing.

‘My mum put all her trust in the doctors but there seems to be no urgency with them. The GP surgery put you on hold for ages and that feels useless.’

The Church Street GP surgery’s phoneline has a recorded message saying that there will be delays in answering calls due to reception staff self-isolating.

It adds that the practice is ‘currently experiencing high levels of calls’ and urges patients to redial 999 ‘if your condition is life-threatening or a medical emergency’.

Speaking on behalf of the GP practice, a spokesperson from Wyre Forest Health Partnership said: ‘As is usual in General Practice we do not comment on individual patient cases, however we will always speak with patients, their families or representatives and investigate with them, where there are concerns or complaints.

‘Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time.

‘The surgery is one of five practices which make up the Wyre Forest Health Partnership.

‘So whilst the surgery did lose team members on Thursday due to a Covid positive result, they were immediately replaced with experienced staff from our other practices.

‘We have worked hard throughout the pandemic to offer an accessible service to our patients, and we have seen patients face to face throughout this time. We have recruited additional reception staff at the surgery, as well as offering a variety of ways for people to contact us to seek help.

‘As General Practice is finding nationally, at the moment it is very, very busy and our phone message does advise that if patients feel they have a life-threatening medical emergency to hang up and dial 999.’

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