Anger overload: report says Garstang GP practice could not retain receptionists because of patients' abusive behaviour

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Abusive patients caused staff to resign at Garstang Medical Practice, according to a report going to councillors tonight.

The fury of patients in Garstang over problems getting an answer to phone calls had the knock on effect of causing further staffing problems, says the report being presented to Garstang Town Council tonight.

Two Wyre borough councillors who also serve on the Town Council - Coun Jonny Leech and former Garstang Mayor Coun Elizabeth Webster shared an update from the local Clinical Comissioning Group updating councillors on action being taken to solve "telephony" problems at the Garstang Medical practice on Kepple Lane.

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The problems patients faced at the practice, which has 13 GPs, was raised at Wyre Council's Overview and Scrutiny committee last year.

Coun Elizabeth Webster - shared an update on phone problems at Garstang Medical CentreCoun Elizabeth Webster - shared an update on phone problems at Garstang Medical Centre
Coun Elizabeth Webster - shared an update on phone problems at Garstang Medical Centre

The report revealed just how overwhelming phone demands on the practice had become during the Covid crisis, despite having eight receptionists answering phones at peak times.

The report noted: "The practice started a recruitment drive 12 months ago which has just now come to fruition. It has been a very challenging time for them with several new staff only staying a few weeks or months as they simply could not cope with the pressure and abuse from patients."

It continued: "The practice has seen a huge increase in calls up to 250% since COVID which is heavily weighted to first thing in the morning particularly on a Monday and Tuesday.

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The report advised: " It is worth noting that both the CCG and the practice are taking a proactive and keen approach to improve the situation to minimise the impact on patients and the wider healthcare system."

It stated: * an upstairs upstairs meeting room at the practice has been converted into an additional phone room and more reception staff have been recruited. It is early days as some staff are still training but already they are seeing a dramatic improvement. It is not unusual for them to deal with 60+ calls prior to 8.40am. "

* The Fylde and Wyre CCG can provide some temporary admin help to help alleviate pressure on morning demand.

* The practice used to have 15-20 calls queuing on a regular basis before the new year and this has significantly reduced. It is not known whether this is due to a drop in demand or having more staff replying to calls.

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A "system review" is now being conducted across the Lancashire and South Cumbria CCG area on telephony concerns which "may provide a longer term solution to the pressure on the phone systems."

Catherine Thornton, practice manager at Garstang Medical Practice, said: “The report provided to Wyre Council a few weeks ago by the CCG highlighted the pressures our practice has faced in recent months. We are not alone in these additional challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has provided throughout the past two years.

“In recent months we have invested in our telephony system at the practice to allow for up to 10 people to be available to man our busy phone lines at peak times.

“We have also ensured that there are sufficient numbers of people available to answer the phones by successfully recruiting to a number of additional administrative roles and replacing some staff who have moved on. While the demand still very much exists and continues to peak at pre-pandemic levels, we are confident the measures taken will allow us to deal with them without significant difficulties going forward.”

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