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Independents' Day

Investigation shows NHS chiefs ignoring violent attacks on GPs

By Gareth Iacobucci

Violent attacks on GPs are being hugely under-recorded, with some PCTs admitting they have no idea of how many incidents are taking place, Pulse can reveal.

The revelation comes as new figures show a rising tide of violence against NHS staff, including a leap in attacks against primary care workers.

But our investigation reveals serious flaws in the system for protecting GPs from assaults.

Trusts possess little or no data on the number of GPs attacked in the past year, even though five years ago they were told to work with GPs on removal of violent patients. And there has been no progress on distribution of attack alarms.

Of 10 trusts quizzed by Pulse, four said they did not hold data on attacks against GPs. Of the six that did, only one had any record of attacks on GPs in the past year.

Yet 2007/08 national figures show there were 55,993 reported physical assaults against NHS staff, a rise of 284 from the previous year. There were 3,607 reported assaults against staff in PCTs, including GPs, up by 162 from 2006/07.

In September 2007, the Government promised to spend £29 million on 30,000 safety alarm devices for lone workers in a bid to crack down on violence against NHS staff.

But none of the ten trusts questioned had offered to provide personal security alarms to GPs, or had plans to do so.

The NHS Security management service (SMS), which issued the new figures, told Pulse contracts for the devices would not be signed with suppliers until next March, and warned there was no guarantees that GPs would receive them.

A spokesperson said it was up to PCTs to decide who would receive alarms, but admitted: ‘The provision of 30,000 devices will not cover all lone NHS workers.'

Trusts claimed it is up to GPs to protect themselves as ‘independent contractors'.

But Dr Beth McCarron Nash, GPC negotiator and a GP in Honiton, Devon, accused PCTs of shirking their responsibilities to GPs.

Dr McCarron Nash said: ‘This problem needs to be addressed before a fatality or serious injury occurs against GPs or their staff. We would urge the DH and PCTs to issue us with attack alarms as a matter of urgency.

‘The statistics are horrific really. The old chestnut of independent contractors is used as an excuse for not funding this. We all work on behalf of the NHS.'

Left to fend for themselves: safeguards 'horrific' according to GPC Left to fend for themselves: safeguards 'horrific' according to GPC

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