Two councillors have called for government intervention after a GP partnership in Basingstoke revealed they are struggling with “high levels of sickness absence” after reception staff have been subjected to abuse.

NHS staff are “burnt out and undervalued " in Basingstoke and they are “doing their best to help in incredibly difficult circumstances", a Brighton Hill councillor has said.

It comes after the Camrose, Gillies and Hackwood Partnership,who look after more than 40,000 patients, changed their automated phone message to encourage patients to be kind, after staff experienced “high levels of abuse”.

All patients who use the partnerships phoneline will be greeted with an automatic message stating: “Thank you for calling Camrose, Gillies and Hackwood Partnership, we are experiencing extremely high call volumes combined with high levels of abuse of our reception staff resulting in high levels of sickness absence. Please treat staff with kindness and respect.”

Now, the ward councillors for Brighton Hill have called for more funding and “urgent” government intervention to help “to help plug the shortfall before it gets even worse.”

Speaking to the Gazette, Cllr Andy Konieczko said: “It’s clear that the NHS is under a lot of strain at the moment and it’s frustrating that many of us are having to wait a lot longer for appointments or even just to speak to someone – but that’s not the fault of the doctors, receptionists or anyone else in the surgeries.  They’re doing their best to help in incredibly difficult circumstances and deserve to be treated with respect. There’s no excuse for abusing staff.“

The Liberal Democrat Councillor added: “I know from my conversations with the Camrose, Gillies and Hackwood Partnership that they, like many other surgeries across the country, have a challenge recruiting doctors, particularly at a senior level.  The real issue here is with a government that has neglected the NHS for far too long, which has created an environment where doctors, nurses and other staff are burnt out and undervalued. 

"This started before the pandemic hit. The government needs to look urgently at how it can hold on to the doctors that we already have and train up the next generation to help plug the shortfall before it gets even worse.”

According to a new study by the Institute of General Practice Management( IGPM), more than 75 per cent of staff at GP surgeries suffer daily abuse from patients.

The majority (78 per cent) face threatening behaviour, racist or sexist abuse from patients, and 83 per cent reported having called the police for help.

“It doesn’t come as a surprise,” Cllr Andrew McCormick told The Gazette.

“I know a lot of people are getting very frustrated at the lack of availability of appointments and the ability to see doctors face-to-face. I suspect that is the driver for [the abuse].

“The NHS seems to be in one huge crisis and this is just the summertime, it will get worse as we get towards wintertime. Now obviously there’s pandemic and there’s a whole of new stuff to deal with, but it seems fairly clear to me that the staffing levels have been exacerbated by the crisis. They are doing more and more with less staff.”

He continued: “We need to reform the healthcare system and that is something that the government needs to do with policy because there’s not a lot we can do about it at council level. I mean we do hear [residents] concerns and we have organised meetings accordingly with the doctors. But I think the only sort of proper solution to this is a government policy change and a lot of money being put into the NHS.”

The Camrose, Gillies and Hackwood Partnership have been contacted for comment.