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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Half of GPs 'face weekly conflict with patients'

Half of GPs face weekly conflicts with difficult patients, a leading defence organisation has claimed.

A survey carried out by the Medical Protection Society also suggested this was having a negative impact on recruitment and retention.

The survey of 254 GPs has revealed that 52% experience challenging interactions with patients on a weekly basis, while 13% were facing them daily, and over a fifth believe that conflict is ascerbating recruitment and retention problems

Respondents blamed unrealistic patient expectations (72%) - with 93% believing patient expectations are higher than five years ago - followed by alcohol/drug misuse by the patient (41%).

Some 75% of the GPs surveyed have experienced verbal abuse while 74% have faced aggressive demands for treatment or drugs and 51% have experienced violent or aggressive behaviour.

One in three (29%) GPs said they had even considered leaving the profession due to the stress and anxiety caused by an experience with a challenging patient and only 24% felt their training had equipped them to deal with these situations.

Dr Pallavi Bradshaw, senior medicolegal adviser at MPS, said dealing with abusuvive patients ‘understandably impacts on GPs’ stress levels, morale and fear of litigation’.

She said: ‘At a time when general practice is already facing recruitment problems, it is worrying that 22% said challenging patients make it difficult to recruit and retain staff… Healthcare is an emotive issue and it is understandable that conflict will arise when there are differing opinions.

‘We need to ensure that GPs have the right support and training to manage difficult situations and maintain a good doctor-patient relationship.’

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Readers' comments (26)

  • On a daily basis as a profession we have to deal with unrealistic expectations in terms of the funding and resources we have. Often this is based on wants rather than needs. All stoked up over the past few years by politicians and their media chums.

    There are many reasons we face a recruitment and retention problems and this is high up on the list.

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  • When I first started as an house officer over 15 years ago, patients were thankful for the service and recognized most of us were working far beyond the average hours (we did 24 hours on call, 1 in 5). Many would say - Doctor go home, get some rest, I'm sure I can wait till tomorrow.

    Now I get complaints because I ask them to wait when they call up mid afternoon, somehow expecting a timed appointment there and then (and often after they finished work but not too inconvenient for their dinner). If I don't do as they say - they'll threaten me with a complaint/AED attendance. Anything they might get "compo" will go straight to the amulance chasers and cause us more work, even when their claim is not up held.

    And the politicians wonder why we are all leaving

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  • There is no support for dealing with them. The customer is always right apparently, especially to those that regulae and micromanage us.

    Of course, working beyond the limits of safety to meet demand means more errors will happen. But that's it, it's only our necks on the line.

    COI - I've left as much of the NhS as is humanly possiblenfor this very reason. Prison work is far less stressful and patients are politer,

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  • As far as I can see from their website, MPS have not published their methods and full results.

    How were respondents selected? What was the response rate? And - crucially - did MPS define a "challenging" interaction (which could mean anything really)?

    Without knowing the details, this report seems fairly meaningless.

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  • Only half of gp's??? Presume rest are on the golf course...........

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  • 'Conflict' too vague a term.
    Could mean anything from refusing to take statins to grievous bodily harm!

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  • Patients should be able to see a doctor of their choice (as happens in other countries) and should not be held hostage to the postcode lottery of boundaries.

    If staff at one supermarket chain are incompetent or rude, shoppers can choose to go elsewhere, they don't have to continue dealing with incompetence or rudeness.

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  • Anonymous | Other healthcare professional | 16 June 2015 4:50pm


    What utter nonsense!

    Any patient can register at any practice they like within their area. They can change to another practice as and when they wish. We, on the other hand, cannot refuse any patient without good reason and have no choice at all.

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  • Today a patient walked in stinking of cigarettes and when the receptionist advised her to come without smoking on day of appointment, she got a volley of invective which was quite colourful with f's and c's flying all over in the presence of 2 other patients and 3 staff members and a recording on CCTV.
    This is GP life. Try deregistering the patient straightaway and you can have a complaint against you for wrong removal as you have 'not followed procedures'. This would come from both GMC and opinion would be shared by the Defence Unions.
    If I behaved like that elsewhere in a public office, I probably would expect to be thrown out physically. No wonder one would just want to walk out and never come back to GP land where we have been converted to punching bags and anybody can spar.

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  • I used to face this sort of stuff on an almost daily basis;

    luckily I took control and GTFO the UK;

    @sanjeev juneja above...... BRITAIN IS FINISHED MATE you need to get out to!!

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