A DOCTOR shortage crisis has turned routine healthcare into a nightmare, it has been claimed.
The number of permanent doctors staffing GP surgeries in Frinton and Walton has dropped to an all-time low.
With surgery bosses struggling to recruit newdoctors to the area, they are forced to rely on expensive locums.
Residents who use the surgeries regularly say it has become unbearable.
Valerie Brunt, of Southcroft Close, Kirby Cross, lost her local surgery in Kirby last year when a lack of staff forced it to close.
She suffers from persistent problems with arthritis, but has struggled to see a doctor since.
Now her nearest surgery is Caradoc, in Frinton, which is down to one permanent doctor for more than 8,000 residents, making appointments hard to come by.
Valerie said: “If I need an appointment now I would have to go over to Walton. A lot of people are having to do the same and you have to queue for a long time. They only let you make appointments first thing in the morning and in the afternoon.
“That’s hard for people who don’t drive and must fit around the bus times.
“I’ve had to start trying to sort myself out because I just cannot easily see a doctor, but that is not an option for some people. It has become a nightmare.”
But residents are worried about the future of their health services.
Valerie added: “I’ve been to all the meetings and written to our MP. It seems doctors just don’t want to come here. It is worrying and quite scary because we don’t know how bad this is going to get.”
NHS England has previously said it is aware of the problem and is working to improve the situation for patients.
Representatives are working with the GP surgeries and have met with Frinton and Walton Town Council to find a solution. A spokesman said NHS England was developing a long-term strategy to attract more GPs to the area.