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