GPs crisis: Patient 'abused Sheffield doctor after booking appointment to ask about battery on electronic tag'

A frustrated Sheffield GP has told how calls to his under-pressure practice have even included concerns about the battery on a patient’s electronic ‘tag’.

Friday, 12th November 2021, 4:01 pm

It was among concerns raised by medics in relation to current problems over services, explained to Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group’s board of governors.

Doctors explained the pressures they are under with a shortage of GPs and rising workloads after the lockdowns, and revealed they were also sometimes abused by frustrated patients.

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Electronic tagging device used on offenders. A patient went to his Sheffield doctor because of a problem with its battery.

But they were also told of problems patients experience trying to access medical care at surgeries, with Dr Zak McMurray, the CCG’s clinical director, saying GPs would like to be able to provide more access. and wanting to see more work with patient consultation groups.

Dr Amir Afzid, from Duke Medical Centre, near Norfolk Park, said doctors' surgeries seemed to be having to take on a lot of secondary work, and it felt like all of society’s ills came to their doors, and boundaries needed to be drawn.

He told how one of their GPs recently left after just four years, saying of the abuse staff receive: “I didn’t come into general practice for this.”

He said: “From dealing with life threatening conditions, dealing with incredibly complex medical conditions on top of which there are huge amounts of social need, some of our surgeries are burdened with things like a patient who got quite aggressive with one of my partners because the battery in his tag wasn’t working, so he felt it was appropriate to come and see a GP.”

Greg Fell - Director for Public Health Sheffield, acknowledged there are patients with legitamate concerns but said most patients are happy with new ways of accessing GPs

Call for more discussion between GPs and patients

Lay member of the governors Judy Thorley said she could see GPs were overworked and acknowledged there had been progress on things like video consultation.

But she said: “For me, part of the solution… is listening to and hearing what our patients and carers are saying too, and understanding the narrative to co-produce what primary care looks like in the future would be really helpful, acknowledging we’ve got some really horrific access issues being one, the issues of telephone contact and getting appointments.”

Sheffield’s director of public health, Greg Fell, said he wanted to hear more stories about where new systems do work well. He said it was worth acknowledging that people had legitimate frustrations, but the evidence said most people were very happy with non-face to face appointments. The evidence was clear on that, he said, adding he was also a patient and found it worked well.

CCG chairman Dr Terry Hudsen said services were stretched. He said everything that the health service did was about putting the patient at the centre and things were in a state of change, with the pandemic accelerating that.

He said while there was change going on, it was difficult for people using the service and for staff. It had been highlighted by Dr Ben Allen, from Birley Health Centre, that the traditional romantic view of the family GP had been changing and would continue to do so as different healthcare professionals were brought in to help GPs.

He added that Sheffield had high quality services but a key thread was how to involve patients in communicating those changes, to unpick some of the difficulties.

Doctors had to recognise there were difficulties for patients accessing services, and there was work to do to acknowledge that, he said.

Local journalism holds the powerful to account and gives people a voice. Please take out a digital subscription or buy a paper. Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor