NHS leaders are asking patients to be kind and understanding to staff in GP surgeries across Gloucestershire as practice teams do their best to meet exceptional levels of need.

Increasingly, GP surgery staff have been on the receiving end of verbal, and sometimes physical aggression, from a small number of patients.

A recent survey of local GP surgeries showed that staff in all 43 practices that responded had experienced verbal abuse, with 17 of these practices estimating that they had experienced more than 51 instances in the last 12 months.

Online abuse via email and social media also is also a regular occurrence, and sadly receptionists are often on the receiving end of both physical and verbal abuse.

Dr Shabari Hosur, GP at Weston House Practice in Cheltenham, said:

“We understand that patients want to be seen as quickly as possible when they are feeling unwell, and we also understand the frustration and worry of having to wait for an appointment.

Practices continue to prioritise appointments for patients with urgent medical needs and schedule other appointments as quickly as possible; however, we acknowledge that some patients are having to wait longer than anyone would like.

We would like to thank the vast majority of people for their patience when phone lines are busy, or they have to wait to speak to a member of the practice team.

However, it’s deeply saddening to hear that so many of our colleagues have reported that they have been abused at work.

We are all working hard and doing our absolute best for patients, our families and communities, and we deserve to work without fear.

Our teams strive to always treat patients with kindness and respect, and we are grateful for the same consideration in return.”

GP surgeries are now offering more appointments than ever before with a variety of health professionals such as clinical pharmacists, physiotherapists, mental health professionals and paramedics to provide the support that best meets the needs of individual patients.

Dr Laura Halden, Clinical Chair, Gloucestershire Primary Care Training Hub, said:

“Demand for GP surgery services continues to be extremely high, and our teams are working longer and harder than ever before to provide the best care for patients. Many practices are experiencing staff shortages, and this is placing intense pressure on teams across the county.

Listening, and responding to people’s needs and preferences, either by phone or in person, is something we do every day. We understand how important it is for people to receive the right care and timely support in a way that suits their needs, and we thank patients for treating us with respect.

Unfortunately, a small minority of abusive episodes can have a significant impact on morale within our teams, causing anxiety, worries and fear.

It is also the reason behind why some staff have resigned and makes recruiting new members of staff more difficult.

This in turn makes it more challenging for our teams to provide the service we would like to.

We and our families are patients too; small acts of kindness, such as a simple ‘thank you’ can have a positive impact and help staff to feel valued.”