The post from Dr Gwyneth Rogers, clinical lead for Banbury Cross Health Centre, said: "Following a number of comments made on social media by some of our patients, I would like to explain some of the pressures we are currently experiencing, and what we are doing to address them.
• There has been a large increase in demand with 2.25 million more consultations in Primary Care nationally this month compared to September 2019
• Locally, we have had to deal with a significant shortage in manpower which has also been reflected nationally
• We have continued to deliver the vaccination campaign. We are very grateful to have been supported by our volunteers from the PPG (Patient Participation Group) and the Rotary Club in this
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"Increased demand and a reduction of the workforce have resulted in the current pressure. I know that this has meant that some of you have had difficulty in arranging an appointment, so wanted to let you know that we are doing everything we can to address the problems you are experiencing
• Recruitment of doctors both locally and nationally. We are a training practice so have been fortunate in being able to recruit locally trained new GPs, but we have also had to use agencies to find staff
• Recruitment of other health professionals aimed at trying to free up GPs to see as many patients as we possibly can. These other professionals include physios, mental health nurses, advance nurse practitioners, paramedics, practice nurses, pharmacists and social prescribers
• Telephone triage, eConsults and video consultations allow us to offer more appointments during the working day. We will continue to see patients in the surgery, as we have been throughout the pandemic, where an examination is required, if the technology is unavailable or insufficient, or if there is another reason for face-to-face
• Doctors are doing administrative work in the evenings and at weekends to ensure we are available to patients to the greatest possible extent
• Vaccination clinics are being run, as much as possible, by a separate dedicated vaccine team so that surgery staff are able to continue to provide GP services
• Our Call Centre team are carefully trained to ask questions to direct all callers to the most appropriate resource. We are constantly monitoring and fine-tuning our switchboard system to try to respond to the maximum number of callers we possibly can
• We have recruited many new members of staff into our Call Centre team to help deal with demand
• Our appointment system is aimed at dealing with problems on the day, rather than having lengthy waits before you speak to a doctor. Even if we reach capacity we will always deal with your problem if it is clinically urgent. If you are asked to call back the next day or on another day when the doctor you want to speak to is next available, please bear with us
• Finally, every member of the BCHC team is working harder and longer than we have ever done before, to allow us to deliver the primary care you need.
"Whilst I understand your frustration with the pressures in General Practice, the tone taken in many of the messages has had a very demoralising impact on the staff, particularly our call centre and reception teams who are on the front line and have to endure surprising levels of rudeness and aggression from a small minority, but unfortunately on a daily basis. This is why I have tried to explain the current pressures, to let you know that we are doing everything in our power to address them, and that we continue to remain open and operating almost all of our pre-pandemic services. We continue to be hugely grateful to the vast majority of our patients for their understanding, patience and kindness.
"If there are particular problems which you encounter with the surgery, please contact us via our website so we can address them. We cannot respond to an issue you raise on Facebook.
"We are inviting a small group of BCHC patients to an evening meeting so that we can show them all of the improvements we have made, answer any questions, dispel any myths, and harness any useful suggestions or ideas. We will obviously still continue to be observing Covid-19 infection prevention precautions, and are having the meeting in the evening, so that it does not disrupt provision of service, and so that staff members can attend. Thank-you."