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Warning on violent patient removals

By Ian Quinn

Medical defence organisations have warned GPs that it is ‘easier said than done' to remove violent or threatening patients and that a move towards zero tolerance will fail unless they become better at paperwork.

It follows a Pulse survey last week that revealed one in three GPs had been subjected to an attack during their careers.

The survey of nearly 900 GPs also showed that fewer than half of the patients involved in attacks in the past year had subsequently been struck off their GP's list.

This week the Medical Protection Society said a forthcoming drive by the NHS Counter Fraud and Security Management Service for a zero tolerance approach to assaults and threatening behaviour against GPs would not work unless GPs became better at following the procedure required to successfully remove patients.

In January this year, the Healthcare Commission criticised GPs for what it said was a recurring theme in complaints of patients being removed from GPs' lists without doctors going through proper procedure.

Dr Stephanie Bown, director of education and communications at the MPS, said: ‘If you put yourself in the shoes of a GP it seems pretty galling that they could potentially end up in hot water with the GMC for trying to remove a patient they believe could be violent. However, if we are to move to a zero tolerance approach, patients need to be advised what behaviour it is that could see them removed.'

A spokesperson for the Medical Defence Union said: ‘What GPs have to do is use balance. If somebody has been violent or abusive then of course you have a right to remove them from your list.

‘But at the same time the GMC says you have got to make sure the patients' needs are still being taken care of. You've got to balance those two things.'

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