A medical centre in Holsworthy has spoken out following a ‘spate of abuse’ experienced by staff.
Lesley Source, practice manager of Ruby Country Medical Group has expressed concern after some of her staff were “brought to tears” due to abuse they had received while at work.
Ruby Country Medical Group encompasses Holsworthy Medical Centre, Stratton Medical Centre, and Hatherleigh Medical Centre, and serves around 15,000 patients.
Lesley said: “With our dedicated team being brought to tears due to recent abuses, I feel compelled to voice how this is affecting the team.
“Firstly, a massive thank you to our wonderful patients for the consistent support, gratitude, and kind words. It truly makes a difference.
“However, with the increased demand for flu and COVID vaccines, we understand that there can be frustrating delays when you call. But it’s crucial to remember that our staff members are doing their best and don’t deserve the brunt of these frustrations, especially outside their workplace.”
Speaking to the Post, Lesley explained that there has been a recent influx of staff at the centre facing a “barrage of abuse”, mostly focusing around the group’s phone system.
Receiving around 7,000 calls a day, the current phone system is struggling, however, a new system is soon to be implemented from December 8.
This provider stops patients from being unable to get through to reception, instead, it will let them know what number in the queue they are and has the functionality for patients to put the phone down and retain their place and be called back.
Lesley added: “I understand some patients frustrations. We have got a terribly archaic phone system. If you’ve got more than three people in the queue it won’t let anybody in. I joined this practice in June and one of the first things we wanted to change was the phone system and we’re having a new one installed on December 8 and hopefully that will take a lot of patient angst away with regards to not knowing if they can get through to the surgery, because the new system is specifically built for GP practices, its going to make patient’s lives so much easier.”
With hospital waiting lists longer than ever, Lesley believes this is adding to the pressures within primary care.
She said: “I think the issues going on in secondary care have a big impact on primary care, so a lot more work is coming our way.
“From that perspective I can completely understand but the girls on the front desk and the girls on the phones, are doing their absolute utmost to help patients and support patients. However, the levels of abuse that they’re having, and suicidal threats, aren’t conducive. It doesn’t help the patient, it doesn’t help the staff member. I’ve had staff in tears because of the way they’ve been spoken to.
“So we started to put things out on Facebook to let people know that we understand their frustrations but at the surgery, we are offering over and above the national average of appointments. In August, I think we saw nearly 9,000 patients face-to-face and that’s just in Holsworthy, not including Stratton. So on average we deal with 2,000 patients daily.”
The surgery has said it is looking to recruit more GPs in an effort to tackle the high quantity of patient interactions.
“We’ve recruited three salaried GPs at the moment, so we have one at Holsworthy and two at Stratton. We are also looking for another two GPs to join us because at the moment we’re paying out a vast amount of money for around 40 sessions monthly with locum doctors, whereas salaried doctors would offer our patients much more continuity of care but trying to recruit GPs in the local area is quite challenging because we are very rural. The whole of the UK is struggling with recruitment issues but in an area like ours, it’s even more challenging to recruit.”
With winter approaching, pressures are set to become more intense and Lesley hopes that patients will be sensible in their use of the practice.
“There will be winter pressures, and this is why it is about letting patients know that there are other avenues. They can use their local pharmacy, its about using the traffic light system, do they need to see their GP or could it be done by the NHS app, could it be don’t by the pharmacist?
“We don’t ever want to turn patients away, that’s not what we’re saying but its actually about using the resource well because obviously we want to be there for the patients who absolutely need us.”
Adding: “It is a juggling act and I think for me its just about saying, “Please treat our staff with respect.
“Please don’t take your frustrations out on a member of staff, I would much rather speak to that patient myself than them take their frustrations out on a member of staff.”