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GP practice urges patients to stop abuse after staff brought to tears

by Caitlin Tilley
3 August 2022

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Keep Your Practice Safe

A GP practice has appealed to patients to stop abusing staff members, after they were brought to tears and the police was called out.

The Red Practice in Walton last week posted an urgent message to patients on its website, saying staff is ‘crumbling under the pressure’ while patients were having to be removed from the list due to their behaviour.

In the joint letter, GP partners Dr Aneeta Hussain and Dr Kalum De Silva, and practice manager Ms Rajni Tandon, said they were ‘facing the hardest times the practice has ever faced in the past two to three decades’.

They said the practice has always had a high level of tolerance and understanding, but ‘in recent times we have had a number of our front line team members become visibly upset and brought to tears due to the upset from patients’.

They explained: ‘Our present team are crumbling under the pressure and we ask you to be kind and  understanding. Every single person is at burnout rate and we fear the worst at losing more colleagues if things continue at this level.’

They added: ‘We are hugely concerned about the welfare of our present team members and are afraid we will lose good team members, if the levels of abuse and threats towards staff continue.

‘This week alone, we have had to call the police out and have a patient removed from the practice list due to threats of violence.

‘Please help us as we cannot continue at such levels.’

Meanwhile, police were called after an aggressive man at Oakmeadow Surgery in Leicester vandalised the practice on Thursday last week.

A man came into the practice and asked for a GP appointment for his daughter, and was told there were none left for the day.

Dr Grant Ingrams, a GP at the practice, said: ‘Before our member of staff had a chance to discuss alternatives, he became extremely verbally abusive and banged heavily on the screen separating patients from staff.

‘He then walked across our reception area abusing staff and other patients, using the “f” and “c” words.’

When leaving the practice, the man ‘kicked a hole in the outside panel beside the front door’.

Dr Ingrams said abuse from patients is ‘growing in severity and frequency’. 

He said: ‘We had already arranged for CCTV cameras, although, unfortunately, they had not been installed before this happened.

‘We understand patients’ frustrations in having difficulty in getting appointments, but this is due to the massive increase in workload relating to the pandemic, the largest amount due to trying to cope with patients who should be under secondary care.’

He added: ‘Like most practices, we have been provided an additional 20% more appointments last year compared with before the pandemic, despite being a GP down (which we are advertising for).’

Dr Julius Parker, chief executive of Surrey & Sussex LMCs, said: ‘It is very distressing to hear that practice staff are experiencing such levels of aggressive and abusive behaviour from a small minority of patients. Despite immense challenges, general practices have continued to provide comprehensive levels of care.

‘The great majority of patients appreciate current delays throughout the NHS are due to factors outside the control of individual practices. My concern is that NHS staff, if subject to threats and intimidation, will leave their roles and the NHS will lose their contribution and enthusiasm. The situation will then become worse for everybody.’

CEO of Londonwide LMCs Dr Michelle Drage said: ‘Government ministers and commissioners need to get the message out at a national level that staff in general practice, and across the NHS, are working as hard as they can, and those on the other side of the reception desk, the consulting room or at the end of the phone are people, not a faceless sounding board for frustrations.

‘Despite providing record numbers of appointments, GPs are struggling with over a decade of systemic underfunding, exacerbated by two years of an unprecedented pandemic. Patient care is being squeezed between a declining workforce and burgeoning demand built up while GPs gave their all, often at great cost to them and their loved ones, to fight Coronavirus.’

It comes after a GP practice is trialling a ‘meet and greet’ reception, having stopped its regular face-to-face offering following abuse from patients.

Keep Your Practice Safe

Management in Practice has launched a campaign to #KeepYourPracticeSafe as more GP practices across the country are facing abuse. In a series of articles, we will share how practices are responding to the issue and what can be done to help safeguard staff. 

Read more stories from our campaign here: 

Managing patient abuse – how one practice removed its in-person reception

How practices can safeguard their staff from the impact of patient abuse

GP practice trialling ‘meet and greet’ reception following abuse from patients

And if you would like to get more involved in our Keeping our Practice Safe campaign, express a view, share an experience or write a blog/other article on the subject, please get in touch with editor Rima Evans.

A version of this article was initially published on our sister title Pulse.

Category => News

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