'This is not OK': GP staff in Shropshire facing a wave of abuse

A rise in verbal abuse is being experienced by staff working in the county's GP practices.

Health chiefs today appealed for patients and families to have respect for staff, who remain under intense pressure in the pandemic.

They say staff at many surgeries are having to juggle rising workloads with the Covid vaccine roll-out.

Last month, it was revealed that GP practices across Shropshire saw a spike in activity during March, with tens of thousands more appointments recorded than in the previous month.

Health bosses say the majority of patients understand the challenges they face, but some doctors' surgeries are seeing an increase in incidents of verbal abuse directed at staff.

Some workers say they are "regularly experiencing abuse from some people" which is impacting on their mental health.

Dr Deborah Shepherd, medical director for Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The last year has been very hard and everyone has struggled, our patients and our staff – but there is never any excuse for threatening or abusive behaviour.

“In general practice we have remained open throughout the pandemic to provide care to our patients, as well as taking on additional work, such as delivering the vaccination programme, without additional staff.

"We had to find different ways of working to allow us to do this.

"We know this created increased pressure on staff and left some patients feeling frustrated.

“Even though the restrictions on our communities have eased, the demand for all the varied services we provide has continued to grow, just as it has elsewhere across the country," she added.

"Our practices are now receiving many more calls a day than they were pre-Covid.

“Staff are regularly experiencing abuse from some people which impacts on their mental health. This is not okay.

"It makes it even harder for them to do their job and deliver the care you need.

"We recognise and understand why people are feeling frustrated but many of the things you are frustrated about are not the responsibility of the staff you speak to, and they don’t have the ability to change them. Often they are just as frustrated as you.

“We must always remember that those working in our practices are people too and are doing their best to help you in what are still very challenging times.”

The management team at Telford Patients First have also encouraged people to thank staff to help them feel valued.

A statement from the group said: “On behalf of Telford Patients First, we would like to stress that we do acknowledge the continued commitment of both clinical and non-clinical practice staff during these difficult times.

"At no time do we condone violent or abusive behaviour towards practice staff who are trying to do their job.”

Patients who require urgent care are encouraged to 'think 111 first'.

NHS 111 will be able to assess and, if required, book a time slot at a range of services in hospital or the community to make sure patients can be seen safely.

In an emergency, call 999.

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