One of Haverhill’s GP surgeries is having to close on certain days as it doesn’t have enough doctors to cope with demand.
The situation at the Christmas Maltings and Clements Practice has reached such a stage that it is now calling on patients to help as it experiences winter pressures on top of its under-staffed team of clinicians.
A letter available on the practice website and in reception areas says: “Everyone employed at the practice is working under considerable pressure and doing their very best to serve the community.
“They cannot work any harder without making themselves ill. If this happens they will leave the practice, making us even more short-staffed.”
Christmas Maltings and Clements delivers 2,263 telephone and face to face appointments per week, which is a greater number than other practices of a similar size.
However, although it has seven GPs, their combined hours are equivalent to four full-time doctors, when it needs seven. It continues to advertise for replacements.
Only three GPs – Dr Fiona Andrews (Senior Partner), Prof Christopher Griffiths and Dr Thomas Curtis – are listed on the board outside Christmas Maltings.
Over 600 telephone calls are being made every day to the practice and the team says it has taken action to improve phone access by increasing the number of telephone lines from four to 10 and recruiting two more receptionists.
The Clements surgery will remain open, but the Christmas Maltings surgery will be offering a reduced service and will be closed on occasions.
The surgery at Kedington will also be open more than it is at present.
Dr Paul Driscoll, Chief Medical Officer for Suffolk GP Federation, which took on the running of Christmas Maltings and Clements Practice in July, said: “We want to be open, honest and realistic about the serious pressures the team are experiencing at Christmas Maltings and Clements Practice and we are calling on patients to help us.
“The reception team are under pressure and cannot produce extra appointments.”
On the days when all of the telephone triage and face to face appointments are filled, callers will get a recorded message saying that the practice is only dealing with emergencies and to please call the next day.
When this happens, booked routine appointments will be cancelled and no pre-bookable appointments will be made available.
The shortage of doctors and nurses to safely staff Christmas Maltings surgery means it will usually be closed but the dispensary will always remain open so patients can pick up their medication.
Dr Driscoll added: “The doctors and nurses at Christmas Maltings and Clements are working very hard and expect to work even harder in winter. If the community can help us in simple ways like using their local pharmacist for coughs and colds, or by calling us later in the day if they need to, it will help everyone.”