CONCERN has been raised by GP partners about the "high levels of abuse" being suffered by staff at the Riverside Medical Practice in Musselburgh.

A practice spokesperson said: "Individual members of our staff team are being subjected to targeted abuse and harassment on social media and sometimes out in the local community when they’re not at work.

"We do often see this type of behaviour peak around election times and it is of particular concern at the moment."

They said: "One of the impacts of this has been our decision take down the photographs and names of our staff team from our website.

"We did this with great sadness because we would, of course, wish for patients to be familiar with the team who provide care to them."

Riverside – the largest practice in East Lothian and one of the biggest in Scotland, with about 19,000 patients – has come under continued fire from patients, who have complained of difficulties getting in contact by phone and booking an appointment.

READ MOREMSP's crunch talks with Health Secretary over 'unacceptable' situation at Riverside Medical Practice

The practice, which is based at Musselburgh Primary Care Centre, has highlighted a shortfall between the number of appointments that patients request and the number it can provide, previously saying: "We do need everyone to understand that capacity is the real issue here, not how quickly you can get through on the phone. In areas with significant health needs, this is a particular issue."

Talks are taking place at Scottish Government level in a bid to solve the long-standing access issues.

Musselburgh’s MSP Colin Beattie is due to meet again with Humza Yousaf MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care; Scottish Government officials; and East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership (ELHSCP), after which he hopes to provide a "more detailed update".

The practice spokesperson said: "Our dedicated staff choose to work at Riverside and to provide care to people in Musselburgh.

GP recruitment crisis

"There is a national GP recruitment crisis and, in this environment, we consider it an achievement to have a strong team of 21 GPs working to provide care to our patients – alongside equally dedicated nurse specialists, nurses, a specialist paramedic, phlebotomists, receptionists and administrators.

"Our team is well staffed within the resources currently available to us and our team provide as many appointments each day as they are safely able to.

"It’s crucial that our entire team feels respected, safe and free from this entirely unacceptable harassment so they can continue to provide high-quality care to patients.

"We hope and assume that the small number of individuals carrying out this harassment and abuse aren’t aware of the effect that their comments have on staff wellbeing, team morale and, ultimately, our ability to recruit and retain staff – the people who provide high-quality care to them.

"We will take action against individuals who abuse our team and our policy on this is available to see on our website.

"We know that the vast majority of our patients would feel equally horrified at our team being treated in this way and we thank those patients for their ongoing support."

READ MOREAbuse of medical staff described as 'completely unacceptable'

Councillor Katie Mackie, Musselburgh ward member, said: “I am very aware there are ongoing frustrations with operations at Riverside GP practice but there is absolutely no justification for abusing members of staff.

"If a patient wants to make a complaint, there is a formal complaints procedure that they should follow.

"As an elected representative, I will continue to raise concerns about Riverside Medical Practice with East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership."

Fellow ward councillor John Williamson added: "Abuse of any sort suffered by individuals simply carrying out their jobs is unacceptable, no matter the circumstances.

"People are understandably frustrated with the number of phone calls they have to make to try and get an appointment at Riverside, then to be told when they get through that all appointments are gone, try again tomorrow.

"There are many issues at Riverside which need to be urgently resolved but the staff working there deserve to be treated with respect and not subjected to abuse."