The shortage of GPs generally was as much a problem as the management of IMH of five surgeries and doctors' practices in Swindon, according to Labour councillor Bob Wright.

The chairman of the borough council's scrutiny committee was quizzing the Conservative cabinet member for adults' services and health, Brian Ford.

He said: "It was brought up at this committee three years ago by Coun Chris Watts, the shortage of GPs.

"It wouldn't matter how well trained the IMH call handlers were, or how many of them there were, they can't give appointments to people with GPs that don't exist. That's the underlying problem."

Coun Ford said: "It's a national problem, affecting everywhere."

Coun Wright said: "It's been an issue that was raised here three years ago and it's not going to change unless we do something about it."