Ipswich dental staff say daily abuse from patients is 'soul destroying'

Dentists are requesting 'urgent help' with only a third set to open in Suffolk. Picture: Getty Image

Dentists are struggling with the abuse from patients. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A member of staff at an Ipswich dental practice has described the daily abuse they receive from patients as "soul destroying", as she pleads with people to be understanding. 

The issue has become worse in recent months, at a time when dentists and GP practices are also dealing with a huge increase in workload as a result of the pandemic.

Staff say the abuse comes on the phone and online, and much of it stems from frustrations over the wait for appointments which have been lengthened due to a backlog caused by Covid.

Nicky Hazelwood, who works in a large dental practice in Ipswich, said the abuse she and her team receive on a daily basis is "soul destroying". 

"People assume that because we are open we are back to normal - this, however, is not the case," explained Nicky. 

"We still have Covid restrictions in place and surgery time has been halved due to Covid because of fallow time (the time to allow droplets to settle and be removed from the air)."

Nicky said her and her team have been shouted at, talked over, and had "complaints after complaints when patients don't get what they expect". 

She said: "We have to prioritise emergency and urgent dental care first, and we are also prioritising children's check ups as this is really important. 

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"We cancelled thousands of appointments last year and it's going to be a long road to catch up. All we ask is that people be patient with us as we are doing our very best to help everyone."

Nicky said she works with a great team of women who all support each other, and praised the managerial staff for supporting them. 

GPs and their receptionists are also dealing with more abuse as a result of the pressures caused by Covid, but senior partner at Woolpit Health Centre, Dr Richard West, said abuse has "always been an issue".

Dr Richard West is pictured at Woolpit Health Centre. New year's Honours

Dr Richard West, senior partner at Woolpit Health Centre. - Credit: Archant

 He said he has not seen abuse rise since the Covid pandemic struck, but said the issue has always been "rumbling around" and should not be accepted. 

He said: "Abuse is unacceptable. 

"But there is a difficult balance to strike, as the patient has the right to go to any other practice and not come to us any more, but I can't say anything to them about finding somewhere else. 

"It's never good if the relationship breaks down, but abuse should not be accepted and we have to make sure our staff are treated fairly."

The Institute of General Practice Management (IGPM) has launched a national campaign named 'If I die it will be your fault', calling for an end to abuse at GP practices. 

The IGPM says 80% of its members have suffered abuse in recent weeks.