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Violence against GPs prompts BMA call for attack alarms

By Georgie Hobbs

One in three GPs has been a victim of physical or verbal attack in the past year, but most do not report it, according to a new BMA survey.

It is now upping its demands for the Government to provide personal alarms to the thousands of GPs on home visits.

One in 10 BMA members reported that they had been physically attacked last year. Of these, one in three suffered minor injuries, and one in 20 was seriously injured, while others reported being spat at.

A third said they had suffered either physical or verbal abuse and threats all within the past year.

The BMA found that the most common reason for violence was dissatisfaction with the service, including frustration with waiting times and refusal to prescribe medication.

The survey questioned around 600 GPs and its findings back those of a larger Pulse survey of nearly 900 GPs carried out in September.

Pulse's poll found that 2.7% had been physically assaulted over the past year, almost 12% had been threatened with violence and just under half had suffered verbal abuse.

Both polls revealed that doctors often do not report the attacks, underlining fears that GPs seem willing to accept violence as an occupational hazard.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, BMA chair, said the numbers of GPs who keep silent after an attack was ‘worrying', adding: ‘We hope that this is not because they feel the problem is not being taken seriously.'

‘Ministers have repeatedly stated that there should be zero tolerance to violence of any sort in the NHS. We heartily agree. The mechanisms must be there to minimise the likelihood of attacks, to support staff who experience them, and to ensure that anyone who commits an act of violence is dealt with appropriately,' he said.

In September, the Government promised to spend £29 million on 30,000 safety alarm devices for lone workers but will still give no guarantee as to whether GPs will be given them. This was part of a larger £97 million pledge to crack down on violence against NHS staff in the community.

But Dr Beth McCarron, a GP in Honiton in Devon and member of the Devon LMC who raised the issue of personal alarms, which was passed at last year's ARM, said she had ‘heard nothing' from the Government.

She said: ‘If all other workers in the NHS were going to get alarms and GPs are to be singled out because they are independent contractors, I'd be very disappointed. I don't want to see the headline: "Violent attack against GP" before we are issued with personal alarms.

‘I would hope that the Government would be more pro-active to defend our hard-working workforce before then.'

A spokesperson from the NHS Security Management Service said: ‘The funding announced by Health Secretary Alan Johnson at the Labour Party conference will be made available to all those who can demonstrate a need, wherever they work in the NHS.'

Dr Hamish Meldrum: campaigning for GPs to have attack alarms Dr Hamish Meldrum: campaigning for GPs to have attack alarms Violence

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