FAMILY doctors are facing abuse on a daily basis, says a Bolton health boss, after complaints that patients were not getting face-to-face appointments with their GPs.

The issue of in person consultations was raised at a meeting of the full council, with councillors reporting they had received numerous complaints from Bolton residents who have been unable to get a face-to-face appointment with a doctor at their local practice.

Cllr Susan Baines, health cabinet member, said residents should be able to receive a in person consultation, should they choose to have one, Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) chairman Dr Niruban Ratnarajah said such appointments are available with GP, who are “currently working harder than ever” — while facing abuse on a daily basis.

Dr Ratnarajah said: “We are absolutely committed to the health and wellbeing of our Bolton residents and our GPs are currently working harder than ever. Like all healthcare services, GP practices are experiencing increased demand as a result of the pandemic. This is reflected across the country and isn’t just the case in Bolton.

“While it may appear to patients that face-to-face appointments aren’t taking place, they are available at all practices to those who need them.

"We have to prioritise the needs of our patients and some can be treated effectively over the phone or by video consultation.”

He added that demand on surgeries has increased to levels above pre-Covid and some doctors were receiving abuse from fed-up patients.

Dr Ratnarajah added: “The volume of contacts which practices are receiving is far greater than pre-Covid, and this can be for a variety of reasons.

"People are more anxious about their health, they may have developed a mental or physical illness as a result of the pandemic.

"Or they’re waiting for hospital treatment and want advice from their GP while they wait."

“ Also, by introducing an online consultation form, people are getting in touch immediately about concerns that historically they would have waited a few days to enquire about and hope would clear up.

"This is on top of the Covid vaccination programme, which is being led by GPs.”

He also said: “Granted, things have changed and we are all working differently across the health and care system.

"While we understand people feel frustrated about these changes, there is absolutely no excuse for the level of abuse levelled at GPs and their practice teams.

"There are a lot of low-level incidents on a daily basis across our practices, and sometimes they can escalate into serious threats and abuse. This is not acceptable.

“Receptionists and wider practice staff are there to help patients get the correct treatment they need at the right time and by the most appropriate person.

"They are trained to ask questions so this happens as efficiently as possible.

"Many GP surgeries don’t have the space to have a full waiting room anymore, when they must adhere to social distancing and infection control measures.

"If a patient is offered a remote consultation, it is in their best interests. Likewise, practices will arrange a face-to-face appointment if one is needed. As a CCG we have a number of audits to carry out and we will be looking at ways we can support our GPs through this period.”

Cllr Baines has asked the health and care scrutiny committee to bring up the issue of face-to-face appointments for “a deeper and more considered discussion and for the CCG to reassure our residents that they will be able to obtain a face-to-face consultation, should they choose to have one, or if there is a need for one”.

She said: “We have to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our residents.”