Plea to use NHS 'appropriately' as man makes 300 calls in month
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Health bosses are pleading for patients to use the NHS "appropriately", after a man from Ipswich admitted calling 111 more than 300 times.
Robert Dawson, of Ancaster Road, also pleaded guilty to making many visits to Hadleigh doctors' surgery without an appointment.
The 38-year-old appeared at Suffolk Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, October 12, and admitted making 306 calls to the 111 service between August 1 and September 1 with no "genuine medical reason".
This was against the terms of a community protection order which had been issued to him.
Dawson also pleaded guilty to visiting the GP surgery many times during August without a prior appointment when it was not an emergency, again breaking the terms of a community protection order.
He was given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £105 in costs and a £22 victim surcharge.
Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said: “Although you’d imagine this is a remarkable example, these types of cases do get in the way of callers desperately trying to contact health services for the right reasons.
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"Having worked in a call handling centre for the police earlier on in my career, I’m aware of the pressures these workers are under. And if you repeatedly deal with someone like this, it can really have an impact.
“Because of the pandemic, GP practices have been trying to provide what they normally do, while also maintaining their involvement in the vaccine rollout and using telephone or online services more often than before."
He said doctors' surgeries were dealing with almost double the number of enquiries as in the past, and their workload had not yet returned to pre-Covid levels.
Mr Yacoub said: “Because of this, some patients may feel that if they’re not seeing a GP face-to-face, they have not been presented with an adequate offer.
"What is important to remember is that all staff and clinicians have been trained to be a part of a practice, and there are so many different professionals under a single roof. People can receive the care they need without necessarily seeing a doctor.
“In turn, what the wider health sector must do is reassure people that they will be seen, and acknowledge that accessibility is a growing issue across the county – whether it is relating to dentistry, GP services, or secondary care.
“We know from our community outreach that most people continue to be supportive and positive about our NHS. Sadly, a small minority seem to allow their frustration to bubble over into abusive behaviour, which is even causing some frontline workers to take time away from their jobs as a direct result.
"This is unacceptable, and we ask people to maintain the goodwill we’ve seen towards all health and social care staff throughout the pandemic as we enter the winter season.”
A spokesman for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group said: “It’s well known that this a challenging time for our GP practices and everyone is doing their very best for patients.
“We urge people to support their NHS by using services appropriately and always treating staff with respect.”