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Almost a third of GP practice staff have been physically abused at work

by Caitlin Tilley
16 May 2022

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Almost one in three GPs and practice staff have been physically abused at work by patients, according to the shocking results of a new survey.

In a poll of 1,395 GPs, conducted by the BMA and GPDF’s Rebuild General Practice campaign, 31% said a member of staff in their practice experienced physical abuse from a patient in the last year.

The BMA and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt joined forces to launch the new campaign, which is partly funded by the GPDF.

The survey also found that nine in 10 GPs and practice staff (90%) have experienced mental abuse (threats and verbal insults) from patients.

And over half of GPs (53%) think working as a GP is ‘incompatible’ with a ‘healthy family life’.

Lothian GP Dr Amy Small from the Rebuild General Practice campaign said the situation in general practice is ‘dangerous for both GPs and patients’. 

She said: ‘GPs are delivering more appointments than ever before in an increasingly hostile and pressured environment. 

‘As a GP who wants to provide timely, quality care to my patients, I share their frustrations. But it is distressing that my colleagues and I are at risk of abuse and violence in our place of work.’

She added that the impact on doctors’ mental health is ‘alarming’ and that the Government ‘must act to address this dangerous and unsustainable situation’.

Over the summer last year, GP practices were targeted with hoax bomb threats and receptionists were attacked with blood-soaked tissues.

In September 2021, a Lincolnshire GP ‘nearly lost his sight’ in a racially motivated attack where an explosive device was thrown in his face.

A survey from the BMA found that more than half of GPs faced verbal abuse from patients or those accompanying them and one in five had been threatened.

Later in the month, a man was charged with assault after attacking four staff members at a GP practice in Manchester, leaving one GP with a skull fracture.

And a Staffordshire GP surgery was forced to close for two days due to staff receiving verbal patient abuse.

Management in Practice’s sister title Pulse also found in a survey that nearly three quarters of GPs experienced increased levels of patient abuse compared with before the pandemic.

Rising levels of abuse against GP practice and pharmacy staff has prompted one ICS to launch a campaign urging patients to consider what would happen if the staff member quit their job.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police is working with Londonwide LMCs to produce guidance for GP practices on how to minimise violence towards staff.

This story was initially published on our sister title Pulse.