A group of Bristol GP surgeries has shared a message asking frustrated patients to be considerate while they deal with a “challenging” period.
Bridge View Medical operates four GP surgeries in south Bristol – Southville, Gaywood House, Malago and Marksbury Road.
In a statement shared on the group’s Facebook page, staff said that patients were frustrated with “appointment booking and access arrangements”.
But the message goes on to say that demand for their services is currently 20 per cent higher than it was before the Covid-19 pandemic, and asks patients to be “understanding”.
It said they were dealing with pressures which included “high levels of sickness” and a number of staff retiring, while they were taking hundreds of phone calls every day.
The message read: “We have heard our Patient’s [sic] frustration with our appointment booking and access arrangements.
“We understand Patient’s frustration and we genuinely care that we are not meeting Patient expectations. We are doing everything we can to improve the situation.”
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The message continued: “The demand for our service has increased by 20% against pre-pandemic levels and all of our Staff are working at capacity. It is very challenging for us at the moment.
“We are trying to find the right balance between safety (of our most vulnerable patients and staff) and ease of access for Patients including open-door access.
“Like other parts of the NHS we are experiencing high levels of sickness, combined with feeling the effects of some recent retirements. This has directly impacted on our ability to answer our phones, emails and other requests received.”
At the end of October the Guardian reported that almost a quarter of GPs are expected to quit or retire in the next few years, sparking fears of a mass exodus from the profession.
But Bridge View Medical said it is recruiting more staff to try to solve some of the issues, as well as introducing new systems.
Its message added: “We continue to recruit and train our staff in order to increase capacity but this takes time. We have implemented a new telephone system that will improve Patient experience, but we acknowledge there are teething issues that need to be resolved.
‘1,200 calls a day’
“We are handling over 1200 calls a day in addition to responding to 200 e- consult requests a day. We have increased our face-to-face appointment provision by approximately 50% over the last 6 months.
“We are reviewing our operating procedures and intend on communicating as regularly as possible how we plan to adapt our procedures. Thank you for your continued patience.
“Please continue to be patient and understanding with our staff, they are human too and the demand and complexity of cases we are dealing with is hugely challenging.
“Take care of yourselves and our community. Please consider your vaccination status and play your part in keeping our community a safe one.”
Although the statement does not go into detail about why patients have become frustrated, some people have left negative reviews of the surgery on the NHS website recently.
Since July 2021, several people have left one- or two-star reviews complaining about long queues when they try to call the surgeries and difficulties in getting appointments to see a GP.
Responding to one such comment left in October, Bridge View Medical said: “Thank you for writing this review. We know that the current performance is far from adequate and are taking action to correct the situation as quickly as we are able.
“Extra Care Coordinators are being recruited and a new phone system comes on line November 1st. We will have to accept that the care coordinators take many months to train properly.”
In September, the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire admitted that some general practices are having problems with telephone access and that it is working to identify those practices and help them.
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