Staff at under pressure GP surgeries along Skegness coast face 'inappropriate posts' from frustrated patients

An appeal has been made for patience after staff at under pressure GP surgeries along the Skegness coast faced 'inappropriate posts' from frustrated patients

Hawthorn Medical Practice in Skegness.

Mounting tension at the difficulty in securing appointments has resulted in patients taking to social media causing "immeasurable affects on staff and GPs' mental health" at two surgeries in the area - Hawthorn Medical Practice in Skegness and Marisco Medical Centre in Mablethorpe.

These surgeries service 17,500 patients in the area - increasing during the summer months.

A third group of surgeries located in Skegness, Chapel St Leonards and Ingoldmells - Beacon Medical Practice - is the subject of a survey for Healthwatch Lincolnshire working with the Care Quality Commission (CQC). The CQG wants to "better understand what impact accessing GP services in Skegness may be having on patients, and to share these findings with the practice as well as CQC and the Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group".

Beacon Medical Practice in Skegness is the subject of a survey.

Hawthorn Medical Practice initially responded to the negative comments on their Facebook page with their own post post highlighting "immeasurable affects on staff and GPs' mental health". The post reads: "It has come to the practice's attention that there has been a lot of negative, nonfactual, inappropriate and person posts/ comments directed towards the practice, its staff and GPs on various social media platforms.

"These kind of posts are extremely detrimental to morale and cause immeasurable affects on staff and GPs' mental health as they all work very hard to provide a service in an ever changing world.

"You can still telephone our surgery but our telephones are exceptionally busy so please expect to wait in queue. When you call is answered there is no need to state how long you have been holding - it wastes valuable time.

"We can only apologise that we cannot please all of out 17,500 patients all of the time. We can only do our best."

Marisco Medical Centre in Mablethorpe.

Simon Hopkinson of the NHS LINCOLNSHIRE CCG said the organisation "will not tolerate abuse of any kind and we operate a zero tolerance policy".

He said: "Hawthorn Medical Practice and Marisco Medical Centre have continued to provide primary care to patients throughout the covid pandemic and, like GP practices across the country, have had to adapt how we work day to day in order to meet the dual challenges of covid and continuing with ‘business as usual’.

"Adapting to these challenges means that we have introduced new systems, including eConsult and AccuRx, whereby patients can, amongst other things, request a GP or nurse appointment, acute prescription or sick note. Patients can also email the practices or telephone us. We also offer video consultation and if we think we need to see you face to face, we will ask you to attend the practice.

"In addition, patients with an urgent need for help out of hours can telephone NHS 111 or visit NHS 111 online, where it is possible to access medical help and assistance, and be offered an appointment in the most appropriate setting. Local pharmacies are also an excellent source of advice and help.

Admin staff at surgeries have been under increased pressure and are appealing for patience from patients wanting to book appointments.

"We appreciate that some of our patients find it frustrating at times trying to contact us by telephone, but please be assured we are working as hard as we can to manage a significant level of contacts with the practices. There may be occasions when it is quicker to contact us online or via email.

"We are aware of some non-factual and inappropriate comments about the practices and our staff on various social media platforms. Everyone is entitled to their point of view, but please remember comments like these are extremely detrimental and disparaging to our staff.

"If you have a concern of complaint, please contact us so that we can address it. We use concerns and complaints as a means of improving what we do and the services we offer, so constructive feedback is welcomed. However, like all NHS organisations, when it comes to our practice staff we will not tolerate abuse of any kind and we operate a zero tolerance policy."

Patients in Skegness have told our newspaper have been told of incidents where they have stayed on the phone in a queue starting at number 18 - only to be told they cannot make an appointment that day and would have to call back the next day.

"The advice I need relates to steroids and acute back pain. I cannot take non steroid tablets because of blood thinners. I could have been taking these 24 hours ago to reduce the inflammation. I’m taking painkillers of course, but due to the severity of the pain remain in bed. Useless of course, and totally lacking in empathy. Did you know they are complaining about patients being rude to them?," said one patient.

Another in Chapel St Leonards said: "The staff and doctors need to court for negligence on a no win no fee. It’s about time this was done by the public who use the so called surgery. It’s nothing but a shambles."

A patient in Skegness complaining about the Hawthorn Practice said: "You cannot get through on the phone. I do not know what they are doing but at least they have had time to redecorate the practice during this time on Covid.

"This practice has got far worse over the years and now Covid is their excuse to be even worse. I have never experienced behaviour like it and have placed three official complaints. Please everyone else do the same if you have experienced this type of 'non' service."

Regarding the Beacon practice, a patient said: "You should make a complaint as it is the only way people will learn.

"It takes no energy to be polite and courteous and you generally feel better if you are knowing you have helped someone.

"I hope this thread of messages is helping others to know you can go forward, you can be helped and we will get a better service."

Our newspaper spoke to Dean Odell, Healthwatch Contract Coordianator, about the survey regarding the Beacon practive.

Mr Odell told us: "We have undertaken this survey as we were asked by the CQC to provide them with patient insight prior to their inspection in August.

"We previously did the same survey with a practice in Stamford and due to the success of that particular engagement exercise where we received 1500 responses they the CQC asked us to repeat this for the Beacon Medical Practice.

"We have received feedback from patients who have found it difficult to access the service by telephone and were dissatisfied with their experience.

"We are aware that the practice has made vast improvements recently and we would expect that to be reflected in CQCs inspection report in the next few months.

"GP access is difficult all across the county, telephone access in particular has been problematic which is due to the increased demand as well as a result of the restrictions put in place by the pandemic.

"We would like to remind residents that GP services are open across Lincolnshire and if you are able to access your GP online this is often quicker and does free up the telephone line for those who may not be able to access digital services. GP practice are extremely busy and working very hard and prioritising the most vulnerable patients.

"Before you make an appointment to see your GP, think about what other services might be able to help. Go to a pharmacy for advice and treatment for minor conditions that do not need a prescription.

Call NHS 111 if you have an urgent medical problem, but you're not sure what to do."

To take part in the Beacon Medical Practice survey visit