NHS leaders in Surrey Heartlands ask the public to support a ‘no excuse for abuse’ campaign in support of NHS staff


NHS leaders in Surrey Heartlands are asking for the public’s continued support for NHS staff, with a strong public commitment against abuse of any kind.  This comes after an increase in reports from a variety of health services of the abuse and threats being experienced by members of their teams.

Examples include online abuse in response to vaccination invitations, verbal abuse and threats to staff working in general practice, in local A&E departments, angry responses from members of the public contacting telephone services such as NHS 111 and abusive comments made to our continuing healthcare teams.

Dr Claire Fuller, GP and Senior Responsible Officer of the Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership said: “We would like to thank the majority of patients for their kindness, patience and understanding shown to our local healthcare teams.  However, we are hearing increasing reports of abuse being experienced by staff across our services which is causing severe stress and anxiety for many.  I have been continually astonished at the remarkable efforts made by staff over the past 18 months; our services remain under extraordinary pressure as we move out of this pandemic, but staff continue to pull out the stops day after day and do not deserve to be treated or spoken to in this way.  We will continue to challenge these behaviours wherever we can.”

Dr Charlotte Canniff, GP and Clinical Chair of Surrey Heartlands Clinical Commissioning Group added: “Local GPs and their practice teams continue to work incredibly hard to care for and support their patients, as they have throughout the pandemic, and deserve to be treated with respect at all times.  The abuse that some colleagues are experiencing as they work tirelessly to care for patients, at the same time as leading the roll-out of the lifesaving Covid-19 and seasonal flu vaccination programmes, is just not acceptable.  No-one should be made to feel intimidated simply doing their job and we will not accept this kind of behaviour

Our practices continue to offer face-to-face appointments where needed, alongside convenient phone and video appointments – options to keep patients safe and provide more flexibility for those who don’t need to be seen on site.  All patients who contact their surgery – either on-line or by phone – are assessed to decide whether they need to be seen in person, via telephone or video consultation, or if they simply need advice and signposting to other services.  Working in this way, we can make sure those with the greatest need are seen first, and that patients see the person who is best placed to care for them.

Demand for services remains high, but the local NHS is also seeing and treating many more people.  For example – current A&E attendances are around 11% higher compared to October 2019 (pre-pandemic); we’ve seen over 28% more GP contacts since the beginning of the pandemic, including face-to-face appointments, telephone/video consultations and online contacts; and NHS 111 in Surrey have experienced a 27% increase in calls over the past 12 months.

Dr Canniff adds: “We recognise that sometimes this behaviour is driven by frustration, sometimes due to longer waits, to a change in the way services are being delivered.  But abusive behaviour is never acceptable no matter the circumstances.  Our staff continue to work tirelessly to look after patients; please help us by remaining courteous and respectful and most importantly, let’s all remember to be kind.”


Dr Charlotte Canniff
NHS Surrey Heartlands CCG Clinical Chair

Dr Claire Fuller
Senior Responsible Officer, Surrey Heartlands Health & Care Partnership and NHS Surrey Heartlands CCG Interim Chief Executive