High levels of abuse from residents about Central Bedfordshire GP services is affecting staff recruitment

One surgery had seven people lined up for reception roles only for them all to drop out

Verbal and online abuse from residents about GP access and services is disrupting staff recruitment for some practices in Central Bedfordshire.

One surgery had seven staff lined up for reception roles only for them all to drop out, a meeting heard.

The about turn resulted from them talking to friends and relatives and seeing social media posts, Central Bedfordshire Council's social care, health and housing overview and scrutiny committee was told yesterday (Monday, January 24).

Abuse from residents about Central Bedfordshire GP access and services is affecting staff recruitment

Conservative Sandy councillor Tracey Stock read a statement from Bedfordshire Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group during executive members updates.

"We understand the frustrations we've seen with general practice, but I want to share this with you as well," she explained.

"They're still seeing a high level of abuse directed towards practice staff which has resulted in a significant proportion of staff resigning and looking for work elsewhere.

"That's leaves practices recruiting to train new staff, which takes time and adds to the pressures including answering phone calls.

"This causes patients to be dissatisfied with the service they're receiving, resulting in abuse and complaints, so sadly the circle continues.

"Practices are finding it hard to recruit staff and very few people want to work in those surgeries where they're aware of the pressures at present.

"One practice had seven people lined up for reception and call handling posts. But they all pulled out because of a change of mind, having spoken to friends and relatives and seen social media comments about the practice.

"It's very disappointing and disheartening for the practice. We'll continue to support staff and practices through this difficult time."

BLMK CCG also said in its statement: "General practice continues to be exceptionally busy with surgeries working very hard to meet the demand they're currently experiencing.

"To help them with this the CCG has commissioned extra appointments for all our practices in our primary care networks into evenings and weekends.

"This means extending that access to the 111 and the out-of-hours services until the end of March using some specific winter access funding they've received.

"These appointments are a mix of face-to-face and telephone conversations with GPs, pharmacists and practice nurses.

"We're aware of and have been supporting practices which have had to reduce services temporarily because of staff sickness or self-isolation to work our way through this current wave of Covid. All practices as of Friday (Jan 21st) are fully open," it added.

"We're working specifically with a number of practices to review and upgrade their web telephony to improve the experience of patients trying to get through on the phone."

Independent Ampthill councillor Mark Smith and Conservative Dunstable Northfields councillor Johnson Tamara both asked about whether the planned mandatory vaccination of NHS staff was a factor affecting people coming into the service.

Councillor Stock, who's the executive member for health, wellbeing and communities, replied: "It's a question I can raise with CCG colleagues to see if that's an issue they're facing.

"But they didn't highlight it as one of the pressures for being unable to fill vacancies."

On accessing GP surgeries, she added: "I think we've discussed this at length and seen the experiences for ourselves as well."

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