Health centre boss in Moray pleads with patients to "show kindness" to staff
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HEALTH centre staff have urged patients to show kindness and understanding while they experience "significant staff shortages" due to illness in its nursing team.
That is leading to a number of appointments being cancelled at Keith Health Centre.
Practice manager Lynn Ross says that has led to, in some cases, verbal abuse being directed at staff handling calls and enquiries.
And while she understands the frustration of people whose appointments have been cancelled, she pleaded with people to remain patient and civil with staff who are doing their best under challenging circumstances.
Mrs Ross said that despite their best efforts, they have not been able to secure sufficient bank staff to cover for those off sick.
"There is a severe shortage of healthcare staff across all areas in Moray at present, and this makes filling the gaps even more difficult than usual," she added.
She said the team at Keith was at maximum capacity and under great pressure.
"The demand for the service is at an all time high and, with reduced manpower, we are struggling to cope.
"Please remember that staff are trying their very best to help, in extremely difficult circumstances and can only offer what is available.
"Each and every member of our team is a human being with a family, with their own health worries and other concerns, and their mental health suffers when they are repeatedly subjected to verbal abuse on the telephone, in the practice or indeed the local community."
Mrs Ross reminded people that the health centre follows the NHS zero tolerance policy to violence and aggression from patients.
"Aggressive behaviour, be it violent or abusive, will not be tolerated and may result in the perpetrator being removed from the practice list and, in extreme cases, the police being contacted."
And while it remains a minority of patients displaying aggressive behaviour, she said the number of incidents has increased.
"At the beginning of Covid, people were so grateful and kind, but I think frustrations growing for some people who can't get the service they expect."
Mrs Ross said doctors and nurses are still seeing people face to face, and they had been working to catch up with a backlog of chronic illness clinics. However, the current staffing shortage has set them back again.
The centre has been working with NHS Grampian and the Moray Community Health Partnership to try and find staff to fill in at present.
"It is a real struggle to fill the positions. NHS staff have worked very hard over the last 18 months and there is a lot of real fatigue among them."
She assured patients that anyone needing to be seen urgently, will be seen by a GP or member of the nursing team.
However, she urged other patients with more minor illnesses and ailments to seek advice from their pharmacist in the first instance.
Mrs Ross is worried that patients in need of more urgent care may slip through the net as they will believe rumours that the health centre is unable to see patients.
"People most in need on any day will be seen with a face to face consultation. We are dealing with the same number of consultations, if not more, than previously, but they are not all happening in the building."
She said for many people, a telephone or email consultation with a GP or nurse is appropriate, but accepts that will not please or be suitable for all patients.
The phone triage system allows a clinician to assess people's needs and ensure they get the "right appointment, with the right person at the right time".
In the meantime, Mrs Ross said the centre was doing everything in its power to fill the staffing gap.