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GPs facing abuse from patients anxious to receive Covid-19 vaccine


Abuse


Exclusive GP practices are having to put up with abuse from patients who are anxious to get the Covid jab, Pulse has learned.

Although patients have been instructed not to contact practices but await their invitation when their turn comes, many are still phoning practices to request the jab.

Some of those patients have been ‘aggressive’ and ‘unpleasant’ towards staff, GPs have told Pulse.

Dr Lindsey Crockett, a GP in Suffolk, said her practice has faced abuse from some patients wanting a vaccination sooner, with people ‘swearing at receptionists’, making ‘nasty accusations’ against the practice or ‘leaving false and negative comments’ about it online. 

She said some of this was related to unrealistic expectations fuelled by Government promises, which GPs could not meet due to limited vaccine supplies, while other patients wished to simply skip the queue.

She told Pulse: ‘That’s where the fear, anxiety and assumptions come from – but they have turned into nasty accusations that we put patient lives at risk, that we are incompetent and useless.

‘Everybody blames the GP surgeries – assuming that we are completely responsible and accountable – but we’re not.’

Kent LMC chair Dr Gaurav Gupta told Pulse his practice has had ‘quite a few patients who have been quite aggressive’.

He said: ‘A lot of the unpleasant behaviour we have seen is around people wanting to get their vaccination pushed ahead.  

‘Unfortunately, it does affect morale at the practice, and of course, we know receptionist staff are working incredibly hard, and for them to be treated in this manner is absolutely unacceptable.’

He added that although GP practices sadly regularly receive abuse ‘it has happened more often in recent few weeks because of patients wanting to get vaccinations sooner’, whether they are in an eligible cohort or not.

Dr Katherine Patel, a GP in Colchester, told Pulse that there has been ‘a lot of upset’ about the vaccination rollout, with some people complaining about not being invited sooner or their eligibility for a cohort.

She added: ‘Obviously it’s a really difficult time for everybody, and it’s affecting mental health, and some people are taking it out on anyone they can. Often, it’s our receptionists who get the brunt of it.’

Meanwhile, South Oxfordshire GP Dr Rachel Ward said her practice had come up against ‘frustrated and difficult patients’ who did not accept cancellations of routine care during the Covid vaccination effort.

She told Pulse: ‘When we explained that our staff were doing Covid clinics, they just saw that as an excuse.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse: ‘At a time when GPs are under enormous pressure and working incredibly hard to deliver such an unprecedented vaccination programme, it is disappointing that we are hearing reports of GPs receiving abuse from patients. 

‘It is understandable that some patients may be very anxious or possibly frustrated if they have not yet received their vaccine. It is not, however, acceptable to take this frustration out on GPs and practice staff who will be trying their best to vaccinate as many patients as they can, as quickly as possible, within the limitations of the supplies that they have.’

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall told Pulse: ‘It is completely unacceptable for GPs and their team members to face any form of abuse while doing their jobs, when they’re working hard to do their best for their patients.

‘GPs and our teams are doing an outstanding job delivering the Covid-19 vaccination programme as quickly as possible to protect people from the virus. We understand that some patients will be anxious to receive their jab, but this is no excuse to act aggressively towards any member of the practice team.’

It comes as Pulse reported yesterday on a GP practice that was vandalised with anti-vaccine graffiti last weekend.

GPs also reported abuse earlier on in the pandemic, including from patients who were frustrated with remote consultations.

GPs whose mental health is suffering relating to the pandemic, their work or personal lives can access the dedicated NHS Practitioner Health support service.

READERS' COMMENTS [12]

John Glasspool 18 February, 2021 10:11 am

Nothing new there: am I allowed to point out that some patients and their relatives are irredeemable vermin? Not the RCGP view, I know.

James Cuthbertson 18 February, 2021 10:26 am

@John Glasspool how dare you say that! They’d love to be on the front line dealing with this but they’ve got an urgent meeting to decide on the colour of the chairs and canapés at their upcoming diversity discussion….

Christopher Heggs 18 February, 2021 10:43 am

Just remember that if your name goes in the practice Bastard book, your COVID vaccine will be out to the very back of the queue. Winning the annual ‘shit of the year’ award won’t help your cause either.
Just remember that if you want something off someone, being nice to them is a very good place to start. Simple psychology. . But there again we have yet to develop a vaccine against stupidity.

Kevlar Cardie 18 February, 2021 10:51 am

@John Glasspool. Utterly OUTRAGEOUS and grossly unfair to those wild animals that are believed to be harmful to crops, farm animals, or game, or which carry disease.

Patrufini Duffy 18 February, 2021 2:35 pm

Great banter – some public are akin to locusts. And their leftovers. Most have forgotten how to speak words, listen or even use a neurone. Remember there is a clear difference between the public and a sick “patient”. Sadly we have to deal with the former.

John Graham Munro 18 February, 2021 4:07 pm

DESPITE MY PRACTICE TELLING ME HOW INCREDIBLY HARD THEY ARE WORKING TO ACCOMMODATE US, THEY STILL FIND TIME TO CLOSE FOR HALF-DAY TRAINING

Mr Marvellous 18 February, 2021 4:41 pm

Maybe they were having a training session to complete the (mandatory) CPD for vaccinating people.

Merlin Wyltt 18 February, 2021 4:48 pm

How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world

Esmat Bhimani 18 February, 2021 6:56 pm

Nobody cares. The public can abuse GPS, because the patient is always right. The whole pandemic is GP’s fault. So what if a number of senior GPS have died serving the public, we are paid for it.

Slobbering Spaniel 18 February, 2021 7:37 pm

Don’t engage with them.
Refer to the appropriate GOV website or helpline

David Banner 18 February, 2021 8:40 pm

Whilst the abuse is widespread and unjustifiable, the cause is vague guidance around Category 6.
– “severe” asthma, but no definition of severe until we had already been inundated with indignant asthmatic punters demanding Cat 6 status
– mental health- thanks for not clarifying you meant “on the mental health register”, guys. Now every depressive anxious type (I.e. 50% of the patients) are demanding a jab.
-Carers – “no, taking a newspaper to your granny on Sunday doesn’t give you priority ”. Meanwhile people still on the carers’ register whose granny died 5 years ago are vaccinated……
-Learning Disability- “but my fit and healthy 18 year old son has dyslexia and can barely read or write, why isn’t he on your register? I’ll have your job for this!”

And don’t get me started on the extra shielding list, announced on the news, no word to GPs, then a mass text drop on to a million phones saying “you or one of your household need to shield”. Cue a queue of angry people demanding why we didn’t warn them and who precisely in their house of 8 needs to shield, and what do you mean you don’t have a clue?? F*****g useless GPs!

Marie Williams 18 February, 2021 9:55 pm

Not news and no one is going do do anything about it. Especially not the BMA- toothless cronies of NHSE and the govt awaiting their gongs.

Its a shame because anywhere else if you spoke to someone the way some patients speak to NHS staff you would be arrested/escorted from the premises and charged.
The lack of consequences just reinforces behaviours.

The article is incorrect about patients being told not to ring their practices as Boris Stevens Hancock etc always default to if you cant get what you want by the official channels just ring your GP.

Unfortunately poor and inconsistent information from the government and now after 100,000 deaths- fear, are all conspiring to make people impatient to get the vaccine and some feel they are more in need than others.

This is actually creating a considerable amount of work for Practices . We have taken to discussing cases at our clinical MDTs lest there be any doubt of partiality .