AN INFLUX of inquiries to GP surgeries in Uttoxeter has seen staff attempting to deal with up to 800 calls a day. The success of the Covid-19 vaccination drive in the area, and the reduction nationally in hospitalisations for people with the virus, has prompted an increase in patients contacting secondary care.
In the wake of reports last week that Uttoxeter had seen a spike in Covid cases, GP surgeries have seen a surge in telephone calls which has coincided with reduced staffing at some practices.
Where staff have needed to isolate in line with Covid-19 guidelines, call-waiting times have increased – which has also led to higher incidents of frustrated and aggressive callers.
GP surgery staff are now appealing for patients to understand that workloads have increased due to the 16 months of lockdown, ongoing Covid cases, unpredictable demand and the difficulties of ensuring sufficient staffing levels.
The pandemic has also meant surgeries have needed to find new ways of offering safe and effective care for patients, alongside continuing to provide the levels of care needed and manage changes that will create sustainability in service provision.
Ruth Kerry is Chair of the Patient Participation Group (PPG) at Balance Street Health Centre, which has seen up to 25 new patient registrations every week as housing has increased in Uttoxeter.
Ruth said: “At our recent PPG meeting we were concerned to hear how a number of factors, including staff isolating because of Covid, and more people contacting the surgery (between 400 – 800 people a day) has led to an increase in pressures on all working at the practice.
“This has led to an inevitable delay in answering calls. Sadly, there has been a significant increase in some patients being verbally aggressive to those working at the surgery.
“This has inevitably led to a lowering of morale and the risk of losing staff.
“As a group the PPG would appeal to our fellow patients to please show empathy, understanding, respect and patience to all who work at the practice.
“This is such a difficult time for patients and staff as our practice tries to ensure we receive the best possible care in these difficult times.”
GPs are still offering in-person appointments as well as the usual healthcare provision, but routine inquiries are being juggled with the release of pent-up demand as restrictions are lifted, as well as questions about Covid-19 testing and vaccinations.
Claire Henman is Practice Manager at Balance Street. She said: “Balance Street practice is currently experiencing staff shortages due to staff self-isolation in line with government guidelines.
“Some of our staff need to self-isolate in line with the current government guidelines, which can cause delays.
“Please treat our staff with courtesy and respect. We are doing everything we can to look after our patients in as timely a manner as possible. We appreciate your understanding at this time.
“We have been serving the community throughout the pandemic and we are working very hard to keep NHS services running during the ongoing pandemic situation.”
Information about Covid vaccines and testing is available online at www.nhs.uk and gov.uk.
There are different types of test available for different circumstances, while anyone over 18, or about to turn 18, can now book a vaccine appointment.
Testing kits and vaccine appointments can be made online. If you cannot access the internet, order by telephone between 7am and 11pm by calling 119. Calls are free.
Your local pharmacist will be able to advise for minor ailments.
NHS 111 online can help if you have a medical problem and are unsure what to do, or patients can also telephone NHS 111 24 hours a day.
In an emergency, dial 999.
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