Demand for GP appointments and abuse directed at staff rises ‘significantly’


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, 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.


  1. No excuse for abuse to staff but it is unacceptable that you are put on hold for over an hour. Many people in thanet do not have access to the internet. We deserve better

  2. I have tried to ring my doctors Surgery. Every single day for over a week now a total of 147 times a day with no joy. Just get an engaged tone even tried to book An appointments online all it says all appointments are fully booked. Went to Surgery and there’s no one in the waiting Room. Receptionist wouldn’t book me a Appointment at the desk. She just said you need to ring. I Explained that I’ve been ringing every single day and tried to book the receptionist said sorry i can’t help you

    • Then demand to see the practice manager-you will soon see things change for you, if not then threaten to go over their heads to the East Kent Trust, CQC & GMC.

  3. Its not just GP surgery’s have you tried to contact Thanet Council? My road has 3 weeks worth of Blue Bin rubbish sitting in it by over 80 houses, so after a week I tried to contact the council online! The first time after I completed the form, I pressed submit, and a message came up saying after 30 minutes I was timed out! What! It only took less than 5 minutes to complete the Online form, so I did it again, and the same thing happened, I was Timed out after less than 5 minutes, Duurh! later I checked my emails and guess what? I had 2 emails saying my Missed Collection emails had been received, again Duurh.

    This morning as the bins were still not collected I tried telephoning, and got a recording to say leave a message, I did and got cut off after less than a minute, Duurh! This proves the Councils IT is, well rubbish, except it isn’t, we still have 3 weeks of Blue Bins rubbish uncollected, and no one has ever got back to me with an explanation! From TDC’s point of view though, its must seem a good idea that no one ever gets through to them, so they must be sitting back thinking its all very quiet, we must be doing a good job, Duurh!

    • Dumpton if you have issues like this contact your Thanet District Ward Councillors. That is what they are there for, if the service is failing and you are not getting a satisfactory response.

    • No they aren’t. The customer service staff there get abuse all day long for things that aren’t their fault like the bin men ignoring your road. Best to get up early and direct your frustrations at them the source of the problem

      • Rentril. Is your comment ‘No they are’nt’ referring to Councillors not being their to assist residents with a problem like Dumpton has experienced?.

  4. It was impossible to get an appointment before Covid, the GP’s are using Covid as an excuse now.
    Just what do the GP’s do all day? Are they working from home? Do they care?

  5. We’ve got the Phone App ( patient access) but our doctors in broadstairs doesn’t allow you to book on line or do repeat prescriptions , so it’s useless , they’re website is the same too !

    • That is the same in Cliftonville. Why are they telling us to do these things online when they are not accepting them online. All I can do on the patient access is look at some of my medical history.
      When are appointments going back to how they were 18 months ago? Surely they should now we are unrestricted elsewhere.

  6. Maybe if the receptionists weren’t used as unqualified triage staff, weren’t there as guard dogs to stop people getting appointments & have a generally bad attitude themselves then more people might be nicer to them.

  7. Abusing the practice staff is unacceptable whatever the circumstances but what are the clinical commissioning group doing about recruiting more GP’s in Thanet as there have been vacant positions for years? I have given up trying to register locally even though I have lived here for four years. The ratio of patients per GP is one of the highest in the country and that is the main reason it is so difficult to register with a doctor here or get an appointment.

  8. most of the receptionists at my doctors seem to think they are consultants , they have taken it upon themselves to ask medical questions, and form their own opinions. i remember seeing some of them working as shop assistants not that long ago.

  9. Can we please get away from the ridiculous notion that we all go to A&E with a sore throat? Most of us have been sent there by 111 because there are no GP appointments at our surgery and we have a condition that needs checking by a doctor.Just admit there is a problem, stop fobbing us off with excuses and maybe then people would accept that you’re working on improving the situation.

  10. I do not work at a GPs surgery but I am on my surgery’s patient group which meets (via Zoom) every 6 weeks or so. This enables us as patients to give feed-back to our surgery as well as the surgery to give us updates and details of the problems they have and how they try to minimise them. I have also run a very large company and can appreciate many of the problems involved.

    It is very easy for anyone and everyone to criticise the GP surgeries but do you not think that if there were an easy solution, the GP surgeries would not do something about it? We all know how understaffed the NHS is overall so that is the root of the problem – any working person only has so many hours in their work day and can only achieve so much in those hours. And so many in the NHS have been working well in excess of their normal working hours for the past 16 months.

    In Thanet we are at least 20 GPs short of the number required for the population. Yet we are expected to build even more houses which will attract more people to the area which puts our GP surgeries under even more pressure. Many GP surgeries have been trying to tackle the problem in various ways for the past few years. Some now have nurse-practioners who can see many patients and if a prescription is required, then ask a doctor to sign one. Many of these nurse-practioners have worked at QEQM or have been paramedics so have medical training, just not to GP level.

    All GP surgeries have a Practice Manager who works closely with the GPs. The Practice Manager then manages the staff including the telephonists and receptionists – they have been instructed to ask questions so they can, where possible, make a appointment with an alternative person to the GP so that as many patients are seen in any one day as possible. Do you have any idea how many people want to see a GP when someone a nurse-practionerer or even just a nurse can assist them?

    I am not saying that sometimes people don’t get to see a GP when they perhaps should, but if they see someone else at the surgery and that person is not capable of assisting, they will immediately be referred to a GP.

    We all know how difficult it is getting through on the phone – but again, when a surgery is dealing with THOUSANDS of patients but there are always many who call first thing in the day when they maybe just want test results or repeat prescriptions and so they could phone later in the day if they don’t actually need an appointment.

    A surgery only has the budget for a limited number of staff and I know in many surgeries that all admin staff answer phones for the first hour or more so that as many calls can be answered and appointments made.

    I could go on but it’s pointless as so many of you just complain without looking at the full picture and without accepting that it is a country-wide problem due to staff shortages and funding that we are in this position today. How many of you would be willing to have an increase in your taxes to better fund the NHS? Again – everyone wants to pay less in tax but still expects excellent services. And that is simply not reality.
    So Real World – get real.
    Barry Lewis – yes, we do deserve better. But that comment only incites more criticism and you should be explaining what are reasons for the problem, not creating more. It seems to me you are just trying win votes with your comment. And don’t blame it on the Conservatives, whatever party is in power, there are still the same problems and the NHS was far from perfect when Labour last left power. And no, I am not Conservative – I am independent as don’t believe that any one political party has the right answers to everything.
    Steve – if people constantly abused you during your work day, I think you too would get fed up and be less polite. Not saying I condone it, but I understand it. Yes, by all means go over their heads, but the root cause of the problem is staff shortages and not East Kent Trust, CQC or GMC can solve that. And don’t you think that all those organisations are already aware of the problems?
    John 558 – what a ridiculous comment.
    Thanetbusinessman – I am sorry you have not been able to find a GP and hope you are able to do so soon.

    • Retired Jane – I was delighted to read your rational and well explained post which most of us completely understand. As for comments by Mr Lewis, this individual forgets the past couple of decades politically and as you correctly state,, looking to score points all the time. Very sad.

    • Good piece, well written and well put.
      However, about 50% of practice income is capitation (payment for numbers on the list), about 10% is QOF (certain activities with patients such as screening and immunisation) and the remainder is payment for rents, IT, training etc.
      So, the ‘A surgery only has the budget for a limited number of staff’ line does not work as practices elsewhere in the country manage to provide a perfectly decent service on the same financial basis.
      The problem is recruitment and retention; the CCG and the government (forget Hancock – Jeremy Hunt and beyond) have been asleep on the job failing to heed the warnings about early retirements and the general age profile of primary care staff hoping that overseas recruitment will continue to suffice and mask their failures to invest and plan.

    • But the problem is political. The tories have an ideology of “small government” and “personal responsibility”. It is also their intention to stream as much public money into private pockets as quickly as possible (look at the covid contracts, for example).
      And I know that Tony Blair was the instigator of many of these private funding initiatives that are bleeding the NHS dry – but he was a left-wing Tory, not a Socialist.

  11. If you really believe paying more tax would ensure an improved health service, keep in mind that “The UK government wasted hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers money on poor quality and unusable personal protective equipment (PPE) while leaving front line workers insufficiently protected from covid-19” the parliamentary public spending watchdog has concluded. BMJ Feb 2021

    How much of that could have helped support our failing surgeries? Let’s use our resources more wisely before expecting people to contribute yet more.

  12. Have been to AnE A few times lately and I have seen and heard nurses vent there anger regarding 111 and GP’s sending people to AnE for headaches, sore finger, such minor complaint. This is putting unnecessary pressure on the hospital. People need to have more bloody sence then to go to AnE with such minor complaint, they should be turned away. 111, GP’s and there staff should be more understanding and take more responsibility to manage there flock and not just send all to hospital. Respect are nurses and doctors they deserve so much more than they get from the public and government

  13. Don’t be fobbed off. If you need an appointment demand one, it’s you right. Don’t receive one then pitch up, camp out till you get one. Bloody government and nhs caused the problem make them suffer like they make us….

  14. Chris – I cannot imagine any GP or staff sending someone to hospital for such a minor complaint. It is more likely that the person was unable to get a GP appointment and so took themselves to A&E. And I agree they should be turned away. Too many people over react for the slightest injury when they don’t need to see anyone or during open hours, could consult a pharmacist. I too have been at A&E twice this year and get frustrated at the number of drunks A&E have to deal with.

  15. We can all look forward to a truly desperate summer. The covid infection rate is shooting up, and on Monday (we are told) Biris will tell us it’s “freedom day”, so off with the face maskes and into the night clubs and discos.
    The number of infections will climb even more steeply, and will affect healthcare staff at least as much as everyone else.
    Got a sore thumb? Avalon and a plaster. Headache? Try paracetamol. Leg fallen off? Go to casualty.

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