The notice displayed at Westcotes Health Centre, which has since been removed, was titled ‘Why people can’t get a GP appointment’
Image: Alex Hannam)
A patient has complained about a “rude and accusatory” message displayed at their GP practice to highlight Covid-19 pressures, prompting the surgery to apologise for any offence caused.
The notice displayed at Westcotes Health Centre, in Leicester’s West End, was titled ‘Why people can’t get a GP appointment’.
The practice claimed the letter was written after a period of “significant pressure from certain patients” and the amount of “verbal abuse” taken by its staff.
The letter, which has since been removed, read: “Everyone who has been waiting for hospital outpatients, elective surgery, etc. has been pushed back on the waiting list because of Covid.
“All of those people are going to their GP asking for meds, updates, and extra help…
“At the same time , a lot of people who held onto their minor problems last year are pitching up at their GP. At the same time we are offering the largest amount of Covid vaccinations.
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“At the same time, a lot of people who held onto their suspicions of cancer symptoms are pitching up at their GP.
“Most of who require a referral, which is often delayed, due to the hospital backlog. So they come back to the GP again panicking that they can’t get their appointment/scam/tests etc.”
It goes on to say: “111 are RAMMED, A+E is RAMMED. So those people pitch up back at the GP.”
Alexandra Tvarozkova, 44, saw the message and was worried it might deter some genuinely ill people from visiting the centre.
Ms Tvarozkova told LeicestershireLive : “I know from first-hand experience how stretched all NHS services are and how much pressure this puts on GP surgeries.
“I saw in the note that the staff at Westcotes were subject to abuse. That must be awful and I can see why the practice would choose to issue a statement to stop that from happening.
“However this kind of notice is unhelpful, rude and accusatory. The opposite of what is expected from public service. I doubt it will stop the abusers.
“It will likely make people worried about their symptoms, people unable to get help or advice on coping with illness and pain, and people with potentially life threatening symptoms and conditions feel like they are burdening the system with their ‘needless’ worries.”
The notice goes on to say: “GPs aren’t ‘hiding.’ They’re holding up the shield in front of the elderly, the cancer patient, the kid with no immune system, against the person who is screaming abuse at their receptionists.
“To say that GP’s haven’t been seeing patients during Covid is like saying armed forces veterans didn’t actually serve in a war just because you didn’t see it or they didn’t win.
“It’s not only untrue, it’s massively disrespectful – not just to the doctors but also to the nurses, pharmacists, HCAs, receptionists, surgery cleaners, admin [staff] even, who put their lives at risk serving through the pandemic.”
The surgery has since apologised for displaying the notice.
A spokesperson for the Westcotes practice says: “Please extend our sincere apologies to our patient who felt that the notice displayed in our reception area might have made patients unwelcome.
“We can confirm that this was not the intention of the practice.
“We have reviewed the wording of this poster and can understand that it might read in a different way. We have now removed these posters from the waiting areas.
“We always welcome negative and positive feedback from our patients. We encourage them to speak to the practice manager if they felt that the practice has not met their expectations.
“The poster was displayed after a period of significant pressure from certain patients and the amount of verbal abuse taken by our staff.”
The spokesperson added: “As you can understand, General Practices are under significant pressure due to the current situation, but we aim to provide the best service we can.
“Our number of appointments that we provide has gone up by 110 per cent in the year 2020 compared to 2019 ( pre-Covid) and this shows our commitment towards providing services for our patients.
“The practice has never closed its doors even at the height of pandemic and continues to see a significant number of patients face to face after effectively triaging them.
“It has become more challenging because we are still providing Covid and flu vaccinations amidst increasing viral infections and dealing with any staff absences due to Covid.
“The practice team remain committed to patient care, but we also have a duty of care to ensure staff and vulnerable patients are kept safe.
“Once again, our sincere apologies to the patient who felt offended by the poster and reassure them that the poster has now been removed.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.