Demand for GP appointments has significantly increased before and during the Covid-19 pandemic and there has been a marked increase in anger and abuse directed at practice staff, says Kent’s Clinical Commissioning Group.
The increased demand means people are waiting longer to get through on the phone or to be seen.
Dr Navin Kumta, Clinical Chair of Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said:“We are aware people are having difficulties speaking to their GP practice and understand the frustration this causes. I would like to reassure patients that GP practices are open, they have been throughout the pandemic and staff across Kent and Medway are working as hard as they can to make sure people have the care they need.
“There is a huge workload due to a number of things, catching up on a backlog caused by Covid-19, leading the vaccination programme – where GP teams have now delivered more than 1.25m vaccinations – and the changes in how teams have to work to continue to safely deliver care, for example.
“GP teams have had to do more phone triage, which can affect phone lines as they are also making more outgoing calls.
“We have seen a marked increase in anger and abuse in GP practices to staff at all levels, both in person and on social media. Please remember that all NHS staff have been working hard throughout the pandemic and continue to work hard for their communities. Please treat our NHS staff with respect and help us help you.”
The CCG has been supporting GP practices to recruit a wider workforce into their teams so that people can see a specialist clinician more quickly.
To help manage demand and make sure patients are getting the help they need, people are being asked to remember:
- Choose well. There are a range of services for people with minor illnesses or injuries. Call 111 or go to 111.nhs.uk, which can help direct you to the most appropriate service. Have a sore throat or graze? These are things that can be cared for at home with a well-stocked medicine cabinet. Pharmacies too can support many common problems, like diarrhoea and headaches.
If you definitely need your GP, there are other ways to book appointments or get advice. If you have access to the internet, you can:
- download the NHS app. You can use it to order repeat prescriptions, book and cancel appointments, get health advice and get your NHS Covid-19 pass
- go online. Check your GP practice’s website to use online triage, where you can fill in a form that will be reviewed and responded to within a specified time. More than two thirds of users would recommend this service to a friend
- cancel appointments you don’t need. With appointment space at a premium, if you have an appointment that you no longer need or can’t make, please let us know as quickly as possible so we can offer it to someone else, you can do this via the NHS app if you are signed up.
The CCG says if people who can use digital channels do so, then those who do not have access can more easily contact their GP practice by phone.