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Practice forced to close due to abuse and receptionist shortage

by Anna Colivicchi
18 January 2023

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Keep Your Practice Safe

A GP practice has been closed for more than two months due to staff shortages partly caused by abuse to its receptionists.

The Haxby Group, which run 13 GP surgeries across York, Scarborough and Hull, serving more than 92,000 patients, was forced to shut its practice in Stockton on the Forest, as it could ‘no longer provide a safe service’ due to difficulties in recruiting reception staff.

GPs at the practice said they are struggling to recruit practice staff partly due to ‘verbal abuse’, adding that the closure could become permanent unless they can find more staff.

A spokesperson from group said: ‘As you will be aware, GP practices across the country are under extreme pressure. Like many, we are struggling to recruit support staff, especially to work on the reception desks.

‘Despite our greatest efforts, we can no longer provide a safe service at our Stockton on the Forest Surgery in York, due to reception staff shortages.

‘Our Stockton on the Forest surgery will therefore be temporarily closed. We must emphasise that this is a temporary measure, and we aim to return to full opening hours as soon as we have recruited and trained new staff members.’

Two other surgeries within the group also had to cut opening hours due to staff shortages.

Prof Mike Holmes, GP and partner at Haxby Group, has previously said there was ‘a real possibility’ the surgery in Stockton on the Forest could close permanently.

He told a council meeting in December that after the pandemic the profession ‘simply cannot recruit.’

According to local paper The Press, Dr Holmes also said GP support staff are frequently ‘verbally abused’ and are being ‘tempted away to other jobs’ with better pay and conditions, such as supermarkets.

At the beginning of this month, villagers held a protest outside the surgery as they fear the closure, which began on 10 November last year, could become permanent.

More than 20 people gathered to protest, as campaigners have also started an online petition to reopen the surgery.

Tony Fisher, a Lib Dem councillor who represents the village on York City Council, said: ‘Local residents were appalled when Stockton’s surgery closed in November.

 ‘This is extremely unsatisfactory, it means that patients from Stockton will have to travel to either Haxby or Huntington.’

A spokesperson from the BMA said: ‘The most valuable resource the health service has is its staff. Yet the NHS is in the midst of a chronic workforce crisis, driven by years of insufficient investment in training new staff, inadequate workforce planning, and lack of government accountability.

‘The result is a vicious cycle of mounting pressures, declining staff wellbeing and poor retention.’

Keep Your Practice Safe

Management in Practice has launched a campaign to #KeepYourPracticeSafe as more GP practices across the country are facing abuse. In a series of articles, we will share how practices are responding to the issue and what can be done to help safeguard staff. 

Read more stories from our campaign here: 

Managing patient abuse – how one practice removed its in-person reception

How practices can safeguard their staff from the impact of patient abuse

GP practice trialling ‘meet and greet’ reception following abuse from patients

GP practice urges patients to stop abuse after staff brought to tears

How to deal with aggressive patients

Managing patient abuse: ‘We’re constantly trying to adjust our systems to help’

And if you would like to get more involved in our Keeping our Practice Safe campaign, express a view, share an experience or write a blog/other article on the subject, please get in touch with editor Rima Evans.  

A version of this article was first published on our sister title Pulse.