Staff at a north GP surgery have issued a warning to patients amid a wave of abuse aimed at them on a daily basis.
They have seen an upsurge in boorish behaviour during the pandemic and are now warning that repeat offenders will be removed from the Riverview practice in Wick.
Support for their zero tolerance policy was yesterday given by local health watchdogs, who branded the abuse “completely unacceptable”.
NHS Highland chiefs have also condemned the abuse which has trigged an investigation by the health authority.
The warning was posted on Riverview’s website by practice manager Joanna Groves.
She said the four GPs and the medical and admin support staff have worked tirelessly to bring in new ways of working to keep the virus at bay.
“This has seen the introduction of new ways of accessing healthcare which we have had to implement and learn quickly,” said Ms Groves.
“Every staff member at the practice has worked throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so.
“The practice has remained open throughout the pandemic and we have sacrificed time with our families and worked unsociable hours to ensure the changes made allow our patients to continue to receive healthcare.”
She said over the past few months, staff at the Martha Terrace surgery have been the target of a daily stream of verbal abuse and derogatory comments.
“Our administration team are faced each day with patients shouting and being unpleasant.
“The surgery follows a Zero Tolerance policy and anyone deemed to have breached this will receive a warning from the practice.
“Repeated warnings may lead to their removal from the practice list.”
Bill Fernie, who chairs Caithness Health Action Team, was yesterday concerned to learn of the problems being face by Ms Groves and her colleagues.
“I am a patient at Riverview and was in a few weeks ago and was very impressed by how they have organised everything to deal with the pandemic.
“It’s totally unacceptable that the staff should have to put up with this abuse when they are doing their jobs in such difficult circumstances to the best of their abilities.”
Mr Fernie said some patients could feel aggrieved by the length of time they had to wait for an appointment but that they should never take their frustration out on staff.
He added: “At the end of the day, they will be the losers as they will face the ultimate sanction of being struck from the register.”
NHS Highland’s chief executive Pam Dudek said: “It is absolutely unacceptable for anyone to be verbally abused at their work.
“It is extremely upsetting and there can be no excuse for such behaviour.
“I am really sad to hear that staff at Riverview have been subject to such poor behaviour and we will provide support to the staff involved.”
Ms Dudek said staff across the Highlands, Argyll and Bute have worked tirelessly throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure the people we serve receive the best possible care whenever it is needed.
“We have a zero-tolerance approach to verbal and physical abuse directed toward our staff and we are investigating this as a matter of urgency.”