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Abuse Should Not Be Tolerated

7th February 2014 | Categories: GPs

Abuse should not be toleratedShould this be expected?

I was shocked and appalled to hear that a man had attacked and stabbed a GP in the neck this week. Fortunately the GP has been discharged from hospital and is expected to make a full recovery, physically anyway. Should I feel lucky that in over 11 years working in general practice I have never come across physical violence towards any of my GP’s, staff or patients? Or should luck not come into it and all healthcare providers should never experience violence in the workplace, particularly a place which focuses on patient care and safety.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines work-related violence as: ‘Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work.’ This can include verbal abuse or threats as well as physical attacks. Although in my current Practice we haven’t experienced any physical abuse our staff experience verbal abuse and this occurs much more regularly than should be expected.

Support for Staff

Verbal abuse, and the fear of abuse, can have a serious impact on an employee’s mental wellbeing and can lead to distress and anxiety, and longer-term stress-related ill health. For employers, the result can be low staff morale, increased turnover of employees, and recruitment difficulties. I have seen productivity and morale drop in employees who have experienced verbal abuse from patients who have vented their frustrations in public; it’s uncomfortable too for other staff and patients to witness such unpleasant behaviour. Whilst we should take into consideration that the abuser may be upset, hurt or frustrated our staff must be trained to deal with such incidents and feel fully supported throughout the ordeal and afterwards.


Sadly we now live in a society where attitudes have changed and there is a distinct lack of respect for professionals and people in authority such as doctors, teachers, and even the police. There is also a growing blame culture and some individuals are unable and unwilling to take responsibility for their own actions let alone their own health.

Complaints about doctors have hit a record high with patients more prepared to raise concerns about their treatment. Grievances are mostly about treatment plans and investigation skills, but according to a General Medical Council (GMC) report there is also an interestingly large number of objections about the respect for patients.

It is believed that at least 150 assaults are made on NHS staff every day with the main reasons due to increasing waiting times, fewer frontline staff and growing frustration as the NHS struggles to cope. Whilst this is a shocking number I do hope that incidents like these do not continue to rise. Healthcare staff do a wonderful job without feeling attacked by the very patients they are trying to care for.

Alison Lowerson – QCS Expert GP Practice Manager Contributor

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