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GP and practice staff trapped for hours due to violent patient

by Caitlin Tilley
20 October 2021

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A GP and two practice staff members were barricaded into their surgery for over two hours earlier this month while awaiting the police’s response to a violent patient.

Dr Elliott Singer, Londonwide LMCs medical director and East London GP partner, told Management in Practice‘s sister title Pulse that the patient was trying to ‘kick the front door’ down to enter the small practice in Redbridge, east London – which wished to remain anonymous – after it had closed on Friday 1 October.

He said that two receptionists and a GP were stuck inside the building for over two hours waiting for the police who never turned up, despite a 999 call around 5.30pm.

‘Eventually it was about 8pm that it was calm and [the staff] were able to leave the practice’, Dr Singer said.

He told Pulse that he spoke to the patient himself and had him seen by the out-of-hours team to sort out his prescription, although the patient ‘never even picked it up at the end’.

The patient had been removed from the practice list five or six weeks ago due to a ‘breakdown in the relationship’, Dr Singer said.

He added: ‘From a police viewpoint, the staff weren’t in imminent danger. Even though that meant that the GP and two receptionists were unable to leave the building for quite a long time, they were safe within the building. 

‘It’s still not pleasant. We need to work closer [with the police] to maintain safety for GPs and their teams.’

Meanwhile, other accounts of police failing to attend incidents with violent patients during the pandemic have been reported by the BMA’s The Doctor magazine and the Independent.

Staff at one GP practice in London was reported to have received abusive messages ‘on text, via email, by phone and in person’ from patients, including an anonymous letter threatening that ‘all medical practitioners, doctors and nurses’ would be put ‘on trial and held accountable for war crimes’ for delivering Covid vaccines.

‘This was photocopied numerous times and put in envelopes and individually addressed to each of our clinicians and posted through the door after dark’, an anonymous staff member told the BMA.

‘I reported this to the police and our CCG but [got] no response from the police’, they said.

Staff at another London GP practice were confronted by an ‘aggressive’ and ‘well-built, 6ft 5in tall, male patient’ who ‘threw something at staff over the reception desk’, according to the BMA.

On another occasion, a different patient shut themselves into and then ‘destroyed’ the same practice’s toilet, it said.

The practice manager called the police both times, but no officers attended, it reported.

‘I called the police and asked them to come out and told them that the only people in the building were four female members of staff,’ the practice manager told the BMA.

‘[The police] said they didn’t have the resources to send anybody out while all we could hear was stuff [inside the toilet] being smashed.’

Management in Practice’s sister title Pulse approached the Metropolitan police but it was unable to comment on the incidents.

It comes as NHS England has said GPs will have access to a £5m security fund as part of a new campaign to tackle patient abuse.

The funding can be used for security enhancements GPs ‘think they might need’, such as ‘panic buttons’ or CCTV, according to the health secretary.

The move, which comes amid soaring levels of confrontational and aggressive behaviour from patients, forms part of NHS England’s package of support for GPs announced last week.

It follows a GP practice in Staffordshire being forced to close for two days earlier this month after staff felt compelled to walk out due to verbally abusive behaviour from patients.

And a man charged with assault after attacking and injuring four GP practice staff in September is due to appear at Manchester Crown Court next week.

Meanwhile, updated NHS England guidance published this month said GP-led Covid vaccine sites should review their ‘security plans’, be aware of undercover protestors and work with their local police forces to ensure sites operate safely.

This story was initially published on our sister title Pulse.