A staff member at an Ipswich dental practice described the daily abuse they endure from patients as “soul destroyers” as she pleads with people to be understanding.
The problem has worsened in recent months, at a time when dentists and general practitioners also face a huge increase in workload due to the pandemic.
Staff say the abuse occurs over the phone and online, and much of it stems from frustrations with waiting for appointments that have been lengthened due to a backlog caused by Covid.
Nicky Hazelwood, who works at a large dental practice in Ipswich, said the abuse she and her team receive on a daily basis “destroys the soul”.
“People assume that because we are open we are back to normal – this is not the case, however,” Nicky explained.
“We still have Covid restrictions in place and surgery time has been cut in half due to Covid due to fallow time (the time to allow droplets to settle and be removed from the air). “
Nicky said she and her team had been stopped, argued and had “complaints after complaints when patients are not getting what they expect.”
She said, “We need to prioritize emergency and emergency dental care first, and we also prioritize examinations of children, because it’s really important.
“We canceled thousands of appointments last year and it will be a long way to catch up. All we ask is that people be patient with us as we do our best to help everyone. . “
Nicky said she works with a great team of women who are all supportive and praised the management staff for their support.
GPs and their receptionists also face more abuse as a result of pressure from Covid, but Woolpit Health Center lead partner Dr Richard West said abuse had “always been a problem”.
He said he had not seen the abuse increase since the Covid pandemic hit, but said the issue had always “rumbled” and should not be accepted.
He said: “The abuse is unacceptable.
“But there is a difficult balance to find, because the patient has the right to go to any other practice and not to come to us anymore, but I cannot tell them anything about finding elsewhere.
“It is never good for the relationship to end, but abuse must not be accepted and we must make sure our staff are treated fairly.”
The Institute of General Practice Management (IGPM) has launched a nationwide campaign titled “If I die, it will be your fault,” calling for an end to abuse in GP practices.
The IGPM claims that 80% of its members have suffered abuse in recent weeks.