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Revealed: the 47% rise in antisocial behaviour in GP practices last year

Exclusive The number of antisocial incidents taking place in GP practices across the UK increased by 47% in 2012/13 despite overall recorded crime falling at practices, a Pulse investigation has found.

Figures obtained from 15 police forces across the UK showed there were 69 instances of antisocial behaviour in GP surgeries or health centres in 2012/13, from 47 the previous year, with typical examples including intoxicated patients and one police force even reporting an assault with a book.

The number of violent assaults against practice staff or patients also rose this year, with 53 instances in 2012/13 from 28 in 2011/12, but the overall instances of crime at GP surgeries decreased by 3% in 2012/13. However, even this figure was way below the national decrease of 8% in 2012.

LMC leaders said the increase in assaults and antisocial behaviour was worrying and said GPs are less likely to tolerate bad behaviour because of the patient’s condition.

In Hertfordshire, the police recorded a typical example of antisocial behaviour, where an offender ‘entered surgery heavily intoxicated’ and his behaviour ‘became more disorderly when GP refused to see him’.

The majority of offenders did not use a weapon but in a bizarre incident in Norfolk a book was used in an assault. This did not result in an injury, the police force said.

The findings, obtained through a freedom of information request, showed that the number of crimes recorded in GP practices or health centres overall reduced from 815 in 2011/12 to 794 in 2012/13.

The most frequently occurring crime recorded this year was theft. There were 274 thefts in 2012/13, down from 334 the previous year. Thames Valley police force recorded the most thefts of all the forces that provided data, with 59 recorded at GP practices and health centres this year.

Purses, bags, cash boxes and mobile phones were the items most often stolen, but practices are increasingly seeing copper pipes, wires and lead from their roofs being stolen. There were also occasions where wheelie bins and CCTV cameras were stolen.

Dr Nigel Watson, chief executive of Wessex LMCs said the increase in antisocial behaviour and assaults were ‘worrying’.

He said practices were more likely to report violence so patients were added to the violent patient scheme: ‘It shows the pressure practices are under. The increase might be because more practices are prepared to report it, because if they report it to the police those patients can be put on the violent patient scheme.

The rise in antisocial behaviour and violence could be because patients increasingly think of themselves as consumers of healthcare, he added.

He said: ‘The vast majority of patients behave really well and use the services properly. But there is a small subset of patients who get rude, aggressive or violent when they don’t get what they want and I think most GPs would agree they’ve seen an increase in this behaviour since ten years ago.

‘It could be due to consumer culture. People in a healthcare environment are frightened, so might be more likely to get aggressive. Alcohol and mental health issues are common. Where they were tolerated in the past, GPs are now less likely to excuse the behaviour because of the condition.’

Readers' comments (7)

  • When something like water is free and easily available it loses all value and this is the end result.My wife is a teacher.Its the same in the state educational system

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  • And this is recorded incidents only.
    I regret that there are a few individuals locally that seem to be regularly moved on from surgerys for antisocial behaviour that the police , though assiting in removal do not log or report as they are well aware the CPS will not pursue ASBO's.
    I suspect the Northwest is not alone inthis given the agenda to reduce recorded crime figures.
    The issue seems to be an understandable but misguided reluctance to use an ASBO to exclude from health premises.
    The arguement is the perpetrator has "a human right to healthcare"- but what is forgotten is the individuals reponsibility to be moderate and approriate in their behaviour whilst accessing this right.
    A "right to life" requires a responsibility not to kill others and this key feature of any "right" must have a counterbalanceing responsibility seems to be absent from the debate.
    I suspect that the practical application of ASBO would not be denial of access, as happens with retail premises, but the knowledge that whilst on the health premises and technically "in breach" of their ASBO any incident that caused the staff to ring the police would result in escalation and possible fine or imprisonment.
    Bad behaviour on health premises is rising because they are the only places courts do not ban the perpetrator from and there is no regular application of effective social or legal sanction to curtail the behaviour.
    It is not existence of "the punishment" that deters, it is the individuals assessment of the probability the punishment will be applied to them a mixture of "chance of getting caught." and subsequent conviction.
    "NHS ZERO TOLERANCE" is toothless as the operation in practice does not result in any adverse consequence to the perpetrator.

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  • There are a few patients I would like to punch

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  • @Anonymous | 19 June 2013 7:20pm
    I absolutely agree.The society has gone to the dogs.Whether its GP premises,A/E departments and shools you hear the same story.Ultimately the politicians are to blame who in their bid to win votes have encouraged the growth of mob mentality.All rights and no responsibilities and then everyone wonders why this country has gone down the pan.

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  • I quite agree.

    We get daily verbal abuse from patients. I have told several patient's I wouldn't tolerate their language (when they are swearing) at my surgery and I had one or two who said "I've been at this surery for longer than you have, who are you to tell me what to do"!

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  • All too often I have seen cases where patients are put on the violent patient scheme after several incidences of violence in the practice - and then are removed by do-gooders who believe the patient's whining and whinging that they were unfairly treated. What message is that giving to practices? And, more importantly what message is being given to these patients - many of whom just go on to do the same thing in the next practice.

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  • I do wonder how often antisocial behaviour is designed by the patient to get attention ahead of the queue. In A&E everyone was waiting patiently when a teenage girl came in with a small cut on her head. She moaned and moaned about the queue, but when staff went by started to scream in pain at the cut and the blood (now dried) in her hair. Quiet the rest of the time, as soon as she spotted someone in uniform, even the janitor, she would go into her act until she was plonked in a wheelchair and sent in ahead of the rest. Personally, I'd have given her a Vulcan grip and told her to sit the F*** down. But that's why I'm in private practice rather than general, and I do feel for the staff that have to put up with this selfish behaviour, or even feel they have to indulge it for the sake of everyone else's sanity..

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