Haverhill GP practices warn staff are at 'serious risk of burnout'
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A pair of GP surgeries have stopped using their online services when the practices are shut - after warning that their members of staff are at "serious risk of burnout".
The Haverhill Primary Care Network, which runs Unity Healthcare and Haverhill Family Practice, said in a letter to patients that it was dealing with nearly double its normal workload.
The letter said: "Staff at both practices are quite routinely working over 12-hour days, and it is not unusual for an individual senior clinician to face nearly 100 patient contacts in a single day.
"This does mean staff are fatigued and are at a serious risk of burnout.
"We are sorry that this means that we are not able to give each and every one of you the time that you would like, and are forced to prioritise and work in ways that may not seem as caring and as personal as we would like.
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"Both practices have therefore decided to disable the facility to eConsult with the practice whilst the practices are closed for the time being.
"We appreciate that this will be a cause of some frustration, but there is simply not the capacity to cope and maintain patient safety.
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"We must stop the cycle of GP practice staff burnout and departure that has previously blighted this town.
"We want out patients to continue to feel secure in the knowledge that we are here to help them when they need us most, and would like to reassure you that this is an utmost priority for us.
"Please do not be put off consulting if you have serious or worrying health concerns."
Haverhill Primary Care Network acknowledged that this problem is not just being felt in Haverhill but across the whole UK.
The Haverhill Family Practice also confirmed that both surgeries are working hard on recruitment, retention and training of additional staff.
Lois Wreathall, deputy director of primary care, NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The pandemic has undoubtedly had an unprecedented impact on GP practice staff.
“We know how hard staff have worked and that they continue to face a high level of demand for their services.
“While GP practices are very much open for business, we encourage patients to use the most appropriate service for their needs.
“Local pharmacies, many of which are open long hours including evenings and weekends, are a great source of help and advice. You do not need an appointment to speak with the pharmacist who could offer over-the-counter medicine without a prescription to help you get better.
“You can also access help and advice 24/7 by calling NHS 111 and speaking to a trained advisor or visiting NHS 111 Online.
“If you do contact your GP practice we urge people to remember the pressures facing staff and to show kindness and consideration, even though it could take longer to get through on the ‘phone or to make an appointment.
“Everyone is doing their very best.”