'Please be kind and supportive,' urge Suffolk health chiefs after reports of verbal abuse towards doctors
Health chiefs in Suffolk have issued a fresh plea to people across the county to be kind and supportive of GPs, after reports of increasing abuse.
Covid-secure measures introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic meant surgeries have not been able to facilitate as many patients in their waiting rooms, while phone and video appointments were introduced to help prevent the spread of infection.
But increasing instances of verbal abuse towards practice doctors, receptionists and staff have been highlighted both locally and nationally.
At Friday's Local Outbreak Engagement Board meeting of police, council and health chiefs, a fresh plea has been issued for people to be patient and supportive of their surgeries.
Dr Ed Garratt, chief executive of Ipswich and East Suffolk, West Suffolk and North East Essex clinical commissioning groups, said: "Our largest partnership in Suffolk, Suffolk Primary Care, had contact with 23 per cent of their patient list last week - almost a quarter of their patient list they had contact with them.
"I know there is a lot of concern about access and all those issues, but the amount of work the GPs are getting through in Suffolk is phenomenal and they are doing their very best to support everyone.
"So please be kind and please be supportive."
The meeting heard that the process at surgeries was taking longer because of the need to wipe down clinic rooms after each patient, while limited space in waiting rooms meant some people had to wait in their cars and staff come out to fetch patients when the appointment was ready.
However, it was also highlighted that video and phone consultations had actually helped speed up access to healthcare - particularly in instances where patients did not need to be present with a GP such as prescription reviews.
Melanie Craig, chief officer at Norfolk and Waveney CCG, said: "I am hugely concerned about the damaging impact I know that the national abuse and the local abuse is having on some of the most amazing people that I have seen work tirelessly from the beginning of the pandemic in full PPE, long hours, weekends, no breaks, and now vaccinating.
"They are human beings. This is having a really damaging impact on the profession, and throughout the entire period GP practices have been open, there are face to face appointments, there are telephone consultations as well which actually has meant that people have much faster access with the option of phone access, which we did not have before the pandemic. I think that has been forgotten."