Dr Linus Onah was one of a series of GPs to tell a meeting of NHS commissioners in the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) area of rising pressure on front line services.
Dr Onah, a GP in Biggleswade, said: “The single biggest threat to our 14,000 patient practice is not being able to recruit non clinician staff because of patient abuse on the phone.
“In the last few weeks we have lost two reception and administration staff because they just couldn’t take the amount of abuse coming down the telephone line.”
He added at the BLMK clinical commissioning group meeting yesterday afternoon (Tuesday) that the issue is becoming a “real and imminent threat to our service.”
The meeting was discussing a recent letter from NHS England calling for GP practices to “respect preferences for face to face care unless there are good clinical reasons to the contrary.”
The letter has caused a huge national row between GPs and the NHS. Locally some GP patients are now demanding to get face-to-face appointments which surgeries are finding difficult to fulfil.
Many waiting rooms still have to provide the space for patients to socially distance, which affects the number they can see, the meeting heard.
Several GPs at the meeting pointed out that they have continued to see patients face to face during the pandemic but the public thinks they are closed.
Dr Chirag Bakhai from the Luton CCG said there was more pressure on GP services now than “I can ever remember” with people “at breaking point of not beyond.”
He appealed for funding to help primary care providers cope with increasing demands on them.
Dr Shankari Mahathmakanthi spoke of a service that is expected to hit 120 per cent targets to help cut rising waiting lists at the same time as carrying out usual services.
Representatives of NHS watchdogs Healthwatch in Milton Keynes and Luton spoke of members of the public being concerned and fearful when they could not get access to GPs.
Maxine Taffetani, from Milton Keynes, said patients saw barriers when they were only seen online or had a consultation on the phone.
Lucy Nicholson, from Healthwatch Luton, said differences between GPs meant people were talking to each other and “perceptions were blown up.”
But she said because of constant feedback from patients she “could not sit here and say all is going well.”
Milton Keynes GP trainer and Leighton Buzzard practitioner Dr Chris Longstaff said he wants to see more face to face consultations happening. He appealed for surgeries to work more closely together.
The meeting discussed the need for more communication with patients to tell them the best ways to access care.