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Practice managers face more patient abuse than primary care colleagues

by Awil Mohamoud
8 April 2020

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More practice managers have experienced abuse from patients than any other primary care professionals, according to Cogora’s latest annual primary care survey. 

Three quarters of the 3,283 primary care professionals we surveyed said they have received some form of abuse from patients. Comparatively, nine out of 10 practice managers and two thirds of GPs said they have been victims. 

A quarter of practice managers reported having been at the end of written abuse, notably higher than the average of 15% for all primary care professionals. 

The survey, ‘Primary Concerns 2019: The State of Primary Care’, captured the opinions of those in primary care just prior to the coronavirus crisis. 

Widespread problem

Just over half of all workers said they have received verbal abuse – the most common form of attack. The statistics show that practice managers are among the most likely to receive this kind of abuse as well, with 56% having been victims. It is a similar case for GPs.

However, pharmacy contractors and employee pharmacists showed to be the most victimised in this respect, with seven out of 10 reporting verbal abuse. 

Half of all practice managers said verbal abuse from patients has negatively impacted their morale. Only a third of all primary care respondents, as a whole, said the same. 

Also, 3.7% (120) primary care workers said they have experienced physical abuse from patients. 

Respondents reported being attacked and knocked unconscious, being punched and spat at, having a bin thrown at them and threats against family members.

This is an area where healthcare assistants and community nurses face the most risk, with one in 10 admitting to being physically attacked. Practice managers have experienced this, too, with 4.5% reporting physical abuse. 

Since coronavirus

Reports from GPs and practice managers show that abuse from some patients has continued through the coronavirus crisis. 

This has prompted some staff to make a plea to the public to show kindness and restraint.

London GP Renee Hoenderkamp described ‘horrific’ abuse that staff, particularly in reception, have been receiving. 

Reception staff initially faced ‘lots of abuse’ when calling patients to tell them their face-to-face appointments would be changed to telephone consultations. In some cases, ‘people were screaming at them — which prompted my tweets,’ she said.

‘Other things are now leading to abuse. Every time a story goes into the press about something that might help against Covid-19, for example, the Clenil asthma inhaler, we get inundated with requests for them. 

‘Some of them have had it [prescribed] in the past, but in some cases, not for 10 years. People are putting in requests for eight of them. If you say no, you get abuse, and reception staff get abuse. 

‘It’s very tricky, because to say no to someone who has previously had an inhaler, even if it was 10 years ago, is clinically risky. But at the same time, you have patients who do really need it, but can’t get it.’