GPs under-fire with complaints at an all time high and patient aggression on the rise
Complaints about local GP surgeries and the difficulty in obtaining appointments is at an all time high on social media sites and at the same time aggression from patients has also risen alarmingly.
There is not one practice in the Fenland area that has not come under-fire from disgruntled patients angry at not being able to obtain an appointment or frustrated at being forced to have an over-the-phone conversation rather than a face to face consultation.
Many patients have complained they are being told to wait weeks for a chance to speak to a doctor, and in some cases just to get a triage telephone appointment.
And in the midst of all the patient frustration comes the news that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group, which has 85 GP practices under its wing, has "seen an alarming rise in aggression and abusive behaviour from patients".
As a result the CCG is currently running a #BeKind campaign, which aims to explain to patients the new ways in which their GP practice is ready to help, whilst reminding them that they operate a "zero tolerance policy towards abuse and aggression".
The CCG says GP appointments have increased since the start of the Covid pandemic and says its practices continue to offer patients a telephone or online triage appointment in the first instance, which can lead to a face-to-face appointment where requested or clinically appropriate.
Adding: "This ensures patients are treated by the right healthcare professional at the right time."
It also says that GPs in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough carried out 422,973 appointments in July, with over 55 per cent of these being face to face - so one in four patients actually saw their doctor in that month.
But whilst that may be the case that does not appear to be reflected in the frustration many people have expressed on local social media sites.
Comments like this one from a poster on the Facebook March Free Discussion page: "Apparently the practice has been really busy and been having face to face for months now!
"I needed an asthma check because my breathing is bad but was told I could speak to someone on the 22nd (the post was made on October 6) of this month if not go to A&E."
Another also commenting on a March surgery said: "After a week of 'no sorry all appointments have gone' when attempting to call 137 times everyday.
"To finally get an appointment with someone only after breaking down on the phone to them."
It's a similar story in Wisbech with posts like this appearing on Wisbech Discussion Forum: "Having ended up spending four days in hospital due to their inability to properly diagnose life-threatening symptoms over the phone, I firmly believe the surgery needs to stop hiding behind phone calls and start proper face to face examinations/appointments for everyone."
But the CCG said: "We have worked with GP Federations in our area to put on additional surge capacity to support general practice. GPs can access additional appointments at surge hubs in their locality at times of high on-the-day demand.
"These additional appointments are being staffed with locum healthcare professionals as well as existing healthcare professionals who work in GP practices across our patch. This support is available to practices in Fenland."
The CCG is also working to help recruit new healthcare professionals such as clinical pharmacists, who play a crucial role in primary care, for Fenland.
The government has now announced an extra £250million to encourage doctors to make more face to face appointments and help plug the staffing shortages faced by many practices.
The new winter access fund will pay for locum, or self-employed GPs, to work more shifts in GP surgeries. It will also be used to fund appointments with non-medical staff such as physiotherapists and podiatrists and advanced nurse practitioners.
However, it is too soon to say how that will impact the experiences of patients in our area with the CCG saying it is currently assessing how best to utilise additional funding locally.