Staff at a Leighton Buzzard doctors’ surgery have been dealing with a “tirade” of abuse due to mounting tension at the difficulty in securing GP appointments.
Over recent months patients at Leighton Road Surgery have complained that the phone lines are frequently gridlocked and that callers get cut off whilst on hold.
And with frustration growing at the situation, blamed on population growth, a lack of GPs and exacerbated by many hundreds of missed appointments each month, it has led to employees being abused both in and out of the workplace.
That has prompted the surgery – which serves 22,000 patients at two sites in Leighton Road and Grovebury Road following a merger last year – to post information about its zero tolerance approach to staff abuse, in the surgery, its website and the Patient Participation Group’s latest newsletter. They warn they have the right to remove violent patients from the list with immediate effect in order to safeguard staff.
The newsletter has stated: “The abuse on Facebook, as well as in person, to the staff is completely undefendable.
“Every person has the right to go to work and not be shouted at and attacked with a diatribe of foul language in person, on social media or outside of work in their leisure time.
“We do not think it is acceptable for staff to be shouted at and have offensive, hurtful things said to them. The people who complain on social media should take up their complaint with the surgery in a reasoned manner before taking to social media, or the press.”
A spokesman for the surgery’s PPG told the LBO: “The staff have had to face a tirade of foul, abusive language both at the surgery and out in public places. One person was told ‘If you have children, I hope they get sick’. Staff are leaving because of the constant abuse they get from patients.
“These incidents are not just about appointments since the staff subjected to this abuse are the reception team, call handlers, the dispensary team and medical staff.”
The PPG spokesman said the high number of patients who did not attend their appointments or bother to cancel was adding significantly to the issue of available appointments.
He said: “In January, a combined number of 587 patients did not turn up for their booked appointment across all three surgeries in Leighton Buzzard. A significant number of the DNAs were for appointments on the same day they had been booked, or pre-booked online appointments.
“There is a shortage of GPs across the country. It’s all very well for builders/developers to promise to build a surgery on their housing developments but where are the GPs going to come from to staff it and the money to pay the staff?
“The new strategy of the Department of Health is to employ paramedics, minor illness nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists and other health professionals in GP practices, as they can deal with many health issues which do not need to be dealt with by a GP, and thus free up GP appointments making them available for more serious conditions. This strategy has been tried at Leighton Road Surgery but patients and other organisations refuse to see them and insist on seeing a GP.”
A spokesman for Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group said: “It is true that the practice has experienced a period of turbulence and this has led to some staff being verbally abused.
“The CCG and NHS England are working closely with the practice to support them and their staff during this difficult period. Patient safety is our absolute priority and we are taking all steps to ensure it is not compromised during this time of change.”
The CCG has stated that the surgery’s new website makes booking, cancelling and changing appointments easier for patients.
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