If you have struggled to get an appointment to see your local GP recently, you aren't alone.

Stratford residents are finding it increasingly difficult to get in to see their GP, or to register with one if they aren't currently enrolled.

It is a situation that is unlikely to improve any time soon, said Mayor Neil Volzke at last week's Positive Ageing Forum.

In response to some comments from attendees at the event about the availability of GPs in the community, Neil said it reflected a national, and in fact international, shortage of GPs.

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"From my time and experience on the Taranaki District Health Board I can assure you the health board is fully aware of the problem and it is one not just impacting Stratford but all across the region, the country and internationally."

Stratford currently has three GP surgeries, however there has been a notable reduction in the number of GPs working in one of them, leading to the concerns expressed at the forum.

Avon Medical Centre will only have one full-time, permanent GP based there from mid March, after a number of GPs previously working there have moved on to other towns or cities.

Patients don't need to panic however, says Natalie Allen, lead administrator at Avon Medical Centre.

"Avon is still almost fully staffed in March and April with some very experienced three- month locum doctors who have worked at Avon before and many patients will be already familiar with them."

Natalie says the team there are fully aware of the difficulties patients are experiencing in getting appointments.

"We understand and really sympathise with our patients and have things in place to ensure people can be seen as quickly as possible."

A patient information evening is taking place on Wednesday this week at 6pm at the War Memorial Hall so the team at Avon Medical Centre, and their parent company Pinnacle Health, can hear patient concerns, she says.

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"We are holding the meeting to ensure we continue to communicate with our community. We want to give our patients the opportunity to share their concerns with us and to make sure everyone feels heard. The meeting will also give us the opportunity to share with our patients the measures and processes we have put in place to ensure people still have access to the high quality patient care we pride ourselves on."

The lack of GPs is a national issue, says Natalie, but it is one the team at Avon Medical are working hard to work around.

If people can't make the meeting, Natalie says there are come key points she would like everyone to be aware of.

"The first thing is we are certainly not closing. We are here, and here to stay. We have also worked hard to secure some locum GPs, ensuring all shifts in March are covered, and it is looking like the same will be the case for April."

In addition, says Natalie, changes at the practice mean patients can now see a nurse practitioner, a nurse with additional training in assessing patient needs, ordering and interpreting diagnostic and laboratory tests, diagnosing disease, and formulating and prescribing treatment plans.

"We also have a clinical pharmacist available to help patients as well."

While it might seem hard to get in to see a GP currently, Natalie says patients should continue to ring the clinic to book an appointment.

"We triage all patients requesting a same-day doctors appointment. That means if you wake up feeling unwell and call us, a trained clinical professional will speak to you and determine the best course of action for you, whether it is a same day appointment with a GP or something else. We always have space allocated for urgent cases each day."

Natalie says patients can also use the managemyhealth app to order repeat prescriptions and book for non-urgent GO check-ups and appointments, or call in to speak to the team at the reception desk.

"We are here to help and to make sure everyone receives the best care possible. "