Suffolk GPs facing increasing abuse from patients

Doctor listening to his patient talking about her illness

People are being urged to be supportive to their under-pressure doctors. Stock photo - Credit: Getty Images/Wavebreak Media

Health chiefs have issued a new plea to people across Suffolk to be kind and supportive of GPs, after reports of increasing abuse.

Leaders have warned of the "damaging impact" of abuse on those working under extreme pressure to help their communities.

Covid-secure measures introduced during the pandemic meant surgeries have not been able to have as many patients in their waiting rooms, while phone and video appointments and consultations were introduced to help prevent the spread of infection.

But increasing instances of verbal abuse towards practice doctors, receptionists and staff have been highlighted locally and nationally.

Suffolk's Local Outbreak Engagement Board - which comprises police, council and health chiefs - has made a fresh plea for people to be patient and supportive of their surgeries.

Dr Ed Garratt

Dr Ed Garratt, chief executive of Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups. - Credit: BEN CARMICHAEL/SUFFOLK CCGS

Dr Ed Garratt, chief executive of Ipswich and East Suffolk, West Suffolk and North East Essex clinical commissioning groups, said: “Our largest partnership in Suffolk, Suffolk Primary Care, had contact with 23% of their patient list last week.

“I know there is a lot of concern about access and all those issues, but the amount of work the GPs are getting through in Suffolk is phenomenal and they are doing their very best to support everyone.

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“So please be kind and please be supportive.”

The meeting heard that the process at surgeries was taking longer because of the need to wipe down clinic rooms after each patient, while limited space in waiting rooms meant some people had to wait in their cars and staff come out to fetch patients at their appointment time.

It was also highlighted that video and phone consultations had actually helped speed up access to healthcare – particularly in instances where patients did not need to be present with a GP such as prescription reviews.

Melanie Craig, chief officer at Norfolk and Waveney CCG, said: “I am hugely concerned about the damaging impact I know that the national abuse and the local abuse is having on some of the most amazing people that I have seen work tirelessly from the beginning of the pandemic in full PPE, long hours, weekends, no breaks, and now vaccinating.

“They are human beings. This is having a really damaging impact on the profession, and throughout the entire period GP practices have been open, there are face to face appointments, there are telephone consultations as well which actually has meant that people have much faster access with the option of phone access, which we did not have before the pandemic. I think that has been forgotten.”

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