A group of ‘anti-vaxxers’ stormed into a GP practice in Hampshire and threatened staff as they were carrying out a Covid vaccine clinic.
GP partners at Westlands Medical Centre in Portchester had to call the police on Saturday morning (28 October) as a group of protesters entered the surgery during a Covid clinic and tried to ‘shut it down’.
Dr Emma Nash, a GP partner at the surgery, told Pulse that GPs were shouted at and ‘called murderers’, with Dr Nash herself being called ‘murderous b**ch’, and that the group refused to leave despite staff asking them to.
She said: ‘We were doing a Covid clinic that was on the national booking service to offer Covid vaccines to patients whose surgeries were not doing them.
‘Probably two hours into the clinic around eight protestors entered the building with placards and boards, having been outside the practice giving out leaflets.
‘The first I was aware of it was when a patient came in, visibly shaking, saying “I don’t like those people out there.” She was clutching the leaflets.
‘Disruption then followed with one particular protestor being very loud and shouting at us, saying she was going to shut the surgery down “today”.’
Dr Nash said that staff had to stop people coming into the practice because several elderly people were ‘quite distressed by it’, and had to hold them in the waiting room.
She added: ‘As the waiting room was filling up, we had to then move 20 or so elderly and vulnerable individuals outside to queue to get to the back door.
‘It took quite some time to get them [the protesters] out of the building. They then proceeded to protest in the car park, still being intimidating to patients coming for their jab, and eventually moved off the premises around 1pm.’
Hampshire police told Pulse that officers attended the surgery and found a number of people ‘protesting the Covid vaccine’.
A spokesperson for the force said: ‘The group left the building to continue their protest outside before leaving a short time later.’
Dr Nash said that the protestors had filmed the protest inside the surgery, adding: ‘Given the network of these anti-vaxxers, it’s somewhat disconcerting to think I might be posted online. I know colleagues who received death threats for vaccinations last year.’
She added: ‘There was no regard for the distress they were causing [to patients]. We have the whole thing on CCTV so will be looking at the footage to see if we recognise any of the people who attended.
‘If they are found to be our patients then they will be immediately removed from our list for verbal abuse and intimidating behaviour.’
Pulse’s investigation into the effects of abuse earlier this year showed a 16% rise in crimes involving violence at GP surgeries since 2019, after a drop in incidents during the pandemic.
According to a council report, GP practice staff face rising abuse due to media reporting as well as ‘often unchallenged’ views expressed on social media.
NHS England recently launched a new programme aiming to reduce violence against staff working in general practice, encouraging GPs to identify abusive or violent patients who may benefit from rehabilitation.