Burnham-On-Sea and Berrow Medical Centre is restricting the number of new patients who can register with it due to ongoing staff shortages.
The surgery has experienced a huge increase in demand for its services during the past year, and its ability to respond to this has been restricted by non-Covid staff sickness and the timings of annual leave.
To combat this, the surgery has been given the ability to restrict which new patients can and cannot register with its GPs, treating each potential new patient on a case-by-case basis.
Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has also given the surgery the power to limit the number of appointments it can offer for non-urgent care.
An update on the surgery’s status was published ahead of a meeting of the CCG’s commissioning committee at the end of September.
Tanya Whittle, the CCG’s deputy director for contracting, says this was “a particularly challenging time for the practice” and that everything possible was being done to ease their predicament.
She adds: “They are facing a shortage of clinical and reception staff due to non-Covid related staff sickness and pre-booked annual leave.”
“Patients can continue to access the practice in the usual way – but due to the high volumes of phone calls, it is recognised that patients have been experiencing difficulty accessing the practice and it has taken longer for calls to be answered.”
“The practice has had a 27 per cent increase in patient contacts from July 2020 to July 2021. This is in addition to the increasing volumes of administration that comes as a result of the pandemic, and the need to support the NHS as a whole around waiting times and both urgent and routine access.”
“We are working closely with the practice to help resolve these issues as quickly as possible, working alongside our wider health and care partners.”
To address the issues, the CCG has approved a “temporary list closure,” which means the practice can consider new patient applications on a case-by-case basis, rather than simply having to accept all new or transferring patients.
Under this system, the medical centre can decline to accept a new patient where there are “reasonable, non-discriminatory grounds” for doing so – for instance, there is another surgery near to them which could accept them.
Ms Whittle says this measure had been in place since August 31st, but it is unclear how long this will be in place.
She added: “The centre is needing to limit the number of appointments available for non-urgent care to enable them to safely manage urgent patient requests. This action allows the practice to focus resources on providing a safe service for its current patients and make progress against an agreed action plan.”