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Criminal violence at GP practices has almost doubled in the past five years

by Caitlin Tilley
6 June 2022

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Criminal acts of violence reported to the police have almost doubled in the last five years and increased year on year since 2017, a BMJ investigation has found.

Over 1,068 criminal violence incidents at GP surgeries occurred between 2021-22, the BMJ’s freedom of information request revealed, compared with 791 in 2020-21.

Last year, there were 182 assaults injuring a staff member, the highest for five years and nearly double the 98 in 2017-18.

Incidences of stalking and harassment at GP practices have almost tripled in the last five years, with 85 in 2017-18 rising to 223 in 2020-21.

It said that 42 police forces (93%) had replied by the time of publication, 32 of which (71%) provided complete and comparable data for the past five years.

BMA Northern Ireland GPC chair and East Belfast GP Dr Alan Stout told the BMJ that in March, a patient phoned up looking for extra medication.

Dr Stout said: ‘He got progressively more aggressive throughout the course of the conversation, and it culminated in him saying that he was coming down to the practice there and then and he was going to hurt somebody. So we locked the front door.’

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said the figures ‘need to be taken seriously’.

He said: ‘It’s entirely unacceptable for anyone working in general practice to be at the receiving end of abuse of any kind when they are just doing their best to deliver vital care and services to patients, but the increase in reports of physical violence is particularly distressing.’

A GP recently spoke of ‘heartbreaking’ arson and racist graffiti attacks suffered by his practice.

Earlier this month, a GP practice stopped offering a face-to-face reception after staff suffered ‘excessive verbal abuse and physical intimidation’ from patients.

And another practice had to be evacuated with GP staff requiring stitches after a violent patient smashed up the surgery.

Updated NHS England advice said GP practices can now consider deregistering patients who have ‘unnecessarily persistent or unrealistic service demands that cause disruption’.

Type of incident2017-182018-192019-202020-212021-22
Assault with injury9898108113182
Assault without injury262255265293433
Assault (other forms)3446388278
Stalking and harassment85135130171223
Other incidents of violence against the person107142188132152

Source: BMJ

This story was initially published on our sister title Pulse.