Sessional GPs and registrars report escalating patient abuse

8th June 2023 by NASGP

Sessional GPs and registrars report escalating patient abuse

A GP locum reported feeling ‘unsure and unsafe’ after patient abuse, an investigative feature by Pulse has reported.

In a Pulse survey of 1,000 GPs carried out late last year, three-quarters of respondents said they and their staff experience verbal abuse from patients on a weekly basis and almost half said they or their staff have experienced physical abuse.

GPs including registrars spoke out about personal experience.

One anonymous GP locum said she had had to leave a practice after three experiences of threatening behaviour. A GP registrar reported having to find a new route to work after a physical assault where a patient grabbed her by the collar then threatened to attack her again after he was delisted.

Abuse is intensifying the workforce crisis: one Doncaster practice reporting that seven staff members had left due to patient abuse.

Sessional GPs reported similar experiences in our 2023 career survey released this month.

One GP told us: “Significant negative pressure: anger and abuse from patients is demoralising, particularly when the negative narrative from both the press and government is at odds with how hard everyone in primary care is working.”

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, NASGP chair, said: “It would be distressing enough to discover that even 1% of staff endure verbal abuse weekly, but this recent survey by Pulse indicating figures as high as 75% is absolutely staggering. Despite the NHS’s commendable efforts and financial commitment to a zero-tolerance policy towards such conduct over the years, the escalating pressures on GPs appear to be making the problem worse.

“Both the BMA and LMCs are undertaking laudable behind-the-scenes efforts to address this, but the government and press needs to play a much more active role in educating the public about the unacceptability of this behaviour.

“Equally important is the need for a reduction in the stressors within general practice, investing in the workforce to increase capacity and access for patients, minimising the potential triggers for patient anger but also mitigating against conditions that escalate to these violent confrontations.”

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