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GPs go forth

GP practice staff trained in self-defence amid fears of violent patients

A practice has provided self-defence training for employees, in a bid to tackle abuse and violence from patients.

Staff at Keighley Road Surgery in Halifax, West Yorkshire, had grown increasingly concerned about the risks potentially posed by patients.

This was prompted by both recent experience and nationwide figures showing that more than 3,000 people in England were banned from seeing their GP in 2018 on the basis of being abusive, according to figures from the Special Allocation Scheme register.

Will Menzies, practice manager at Keighley Road Surgery, said the training was brought in after a patient threatened to kill him.

He told the BBC: 'Two years ago, a patient rang the surgery wanting some medicine and he became increasingly aggressive.

'The call was put through to me and the man said "prepare yourself, I'm coming to the surgery to kill you".'

He added: 'Our staff asked us to provide this sort of training, so they have a range of strategies and techniques to deal with this growing issue.'

Around a year ago, a new 'zero tolerance' policy was introduced to reduce the volume of assaults on NHS staff, including GPs.

As part of the Department of Health and Social Care's violence reduction strategy, the partnership between the NHS, police and Crown Prosecution Service jointly aims to speed up the rate of offenders' prosecutions.

There have been a spate of aggressive episodes directed towards healthcare professionals lately, including a stabbing at an east London practice that led to four people being hospitalised, and a patient's arrest following an alleged knife attack on a GP during a consultation in Stoke

A survey of approximately 400 doctors at the start of 2019 revealed over three quarters said they have been assaulted or threatened by a patient or their relative while practising.

Earlier this year also saw a patient who burst into a GP’s consultation room and shot him with a crossbow found guilty of attempted murder.

Elsewhere in the region, Lofthouse Surgery in Wakefield has seen its staff receive bravery awards from West Yorkshire Police, following a violent attack by a patient last year.

Two of the practice's GPs, Dr Ian Sanderson and Dr Catherine Lloyd, as well as nurse Tina Riordan and a member of the public were recognised for how they responded to an episode where a patient attacked a police officer who had arrived on the scene to handle the situation.

Dr Sanderson, a partner at the practice, told Pulse: 'While this was an upsetting incident for all involved, I wanted to commend the bravery shown by our staff and patients who were present.

'We all worked tirelessly to ensure there was minimum disruption for our patients, while ensuring we took care of our colleagues too. Thankfully this was an isolated event and although, like all GP practices, we occasionally have to contend with challenging behaviour, this was an extreme case and not a reflection of the wider practice population we serve.'

Readers' comments (7)

  • unless you train in self defense on a regular basis training means diddly squat. you should change the system because its the problem. zero tolerance should mean zero ie off your list till you can prove you can behave. we shouldn't have to put up with it and we should be backed to the hilt by the CCG, PCN, GMC and CQC.

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  • You've hit the spot d in vadar but there is no backing for us. Just lip service. See GMC cases when GPs got attacked by children they are trying to examine. Toxic UK.

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  • This is bizarre, a threat to kill, is a criminal justice matter and should be reported to the police for prosecution, really Gps and staff as Ninja warriors is ludicrous.

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  • Just ban abusive patients from all NHS services and let them pay for private care. Would end the abuse in a second.

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  • Cobblers

    25 years ago in response to escalating violence the local GPs in East Kent set up "Self defence" training for GPs and staff. I recall the first words of the trainer. "If you can, back off and run. Anything I can teach you is aimed at that purpose, to keep safe".

    Wise words.

    Training can engender false confidence and as d in vadar says it can be worth diddly squat, indeed I would go further in that it might increase your chances of injury or death.

    On a personal level that self defence course did make a few of us GPs go on to further training over the following 4-5 years and attain black belt status. Our photo was even published in Pulse some 17-18 years ago!

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  • D in Vader has it 100% , zero tolerance and zero access to NHS

    As I recall usual political verbage a few years ago promised stiffer sentences and more backbone against this sort of unacceptable behaviour. As regards backup I know of one local example where the patient always superceeds common sense.

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  • One of our patients stabbed an AnE security guard over a benzo argument. We told pcse we were removing him from our GP list immediately as even if he went to prison he would need to be flagged as potentially dangerous and be on the special patients scheme in future.
    Faceless administrators in a security controlled building in central London denied it as no direct violence or threat to GPs.
    We 30 day off listed him but told him he was no longer welcome to attend practice with immediate effect. Hopefully the new GP sees the alerts in bold in his clinical record, but he won’t be on the special patient register on leaving jail.
    ‘Zero tolerance’ seems to have a very granular range of interpretations in our magnificent NHS.

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