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Government to fund GP ‘panic buttons’ as part of campaign against abuse

Government to fund GP ‘panic buttons’ as part of campaign against abuse

GPs will have access to a £5m security fund as part of a new campaign to tackle patient abuse, NHS England has said.

The funding can be used for security enhancements GPs ‘think they might need’, such as ‘panic buttons’ or CCTV, according to the health secretary.

The move, which comes amid soaring levels of confrontational and aggressive behaviour from patients, forms part of Sajid Javid’s package of support for GPs announced last week.

NHS England guidance, published last Thursday, said it would ‘immediately establish a £5m fund to facilitate essential upgrades to practice security measures, distributed via NHS regional teams’.

But speaking on BBC Breakfast last week, health secretary Sajid Javid said that ‘if there are practices that think they might need, for example, CCTV, panic buttons or other kinds of support, then that is available if that’s what they need.’

He added: ‘There are people out there, and I have seen it myself on social media, that have given abuse to GPs and there has actually been violence against GPs and it is completely, totally unacceptable.

‘So there will be a zero-tolerance policy and one of the things I want to do in this package, again based on the feedback I was getting from GPs, is to offer support on that.’

The Government and NHS England will work with trade unions and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges to launch the ‘zero-tolerance campaign on abuse of NHS staff’, the official guidance said.

It added that NHS England will also work alongside the BMA’s GP Committee, the RCGP and patient groups such as Healthwatch and National Voices to ‘develop communications tools that can help people to understand how they can access the care they need in general practice’.

NHS England said: ‘We understand the frustration of patients who were not able to access appropriate care when they needed it, but we are clear that is never an excuse for abuse or violence against staff.

‘The NHS has a zero-tolerance approach to abuse and violence against its staff. There is no place for aggression, abuse, incivility, or any acts of violence in our society.’

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It added: ‘General practice staff are dedicated to delivering care for patients, and have the right to work free from fear of assault or abuse in a safe and secure environment.

‘If a person is violent, abusive or threatening to their GP or any general practice staff, they can be permanently removed from the surgery.’

NHS England said it was already taking action to protect and support staff through a ‘violence reduction programme’ and working closely with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to ‘bring offenders to justice’.

The Government is legislating for the maximum prison sentence for common assault to be doubled to two years if the victim is an NHS worker through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021, it added.

GPs have warned that the growing chorus of criticism over patient access to face-to-face consultations from sections of the media and some politicians is a key factor behind the surge in confrontations with angry patients.

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall last week told the college’s annual conference that GPs had found themselves at the centre of a ‘public storm over face-to-face appointments’.

He said: ‘The malicious criticism of the profession by certain sections of the media and by some politicians as a result of the shift towards remote working – introduced to keep our patients and our team safe and keep the service operating – has been the worst that I can remember in over 30 years as a GP.

‘This widespread vilification of hard-working GPs and our teams is unfair, it’s demoralising and it’s indefensible. No one working in general practice deserves this abuse.’

It comes as a GP practice in Staffordshire was forced to close for two days last week after staff felt compelled to walk out due to verbally abusive behaviour from patients.

And a man charged with assault after attacking and injuring four GP practice staff in September is due to appear at Manchester Crown Court this month.

Meanwhile, updated NHS England guidance published last week said GP-led Covid vaccine sites should review their ‘security plans’, be aware of undercover protestors and work with their local police forces to ensure sites operate safely.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Alan Woodall 18 October, 2021 9:04 am

We already have panic buttons in EMIS – and I suspect Vision and others do as well.

Goes to show how little NHS England take this seriously, or seek decent advisory input – if they don’t know this already.

Alan Woodall 18 October, 2021 9:07 am

And as for CCTV – in the consulting room? Yeah, right. Frankly I would love it – to record some of the abuse and lies that patients come out with – but can’t see anyone allowing it.

It’s meaningless pm clutching at straws sound-bite.

Again Javid – you’re an uninformed clueless idiot appointed way above your pay grade,

Kevlar Cardie 18 October, 2021 9:24 am

Being a GP doing home visits alone is seriously unsafe.

Only a matter of time before a GP is murdered, then it’ll be “Thoughts and Prayers…lessons must be learned…” and all the other usual Bulls*** Bingo.

Sadly my Kevlar Cardie is imaginary.

Doc Getmeout 18 October, 2021 10:16 am

Is there a Government sponsored panic button for heavy workloads, high exterme work stress levels and resulting declining mental health levels.

( all generated, sponsored and enhanced by this government)

Marie-Louise Irvine 18 October, 2021 10:24 am

What’s the point in having a panic button if there is no security to come to your aid? We have always had panic buttons in our rooms in our practice but ringing them is next to useless as all it does is tell whoever else is in the surgery that you are in trouble. Often that is a couple or receptionists and maybe one or two other doctors – sometimes only one if it is late evening or Saturday morning. What are they supposed to do when faced with someone being physically aggressive/violent? We are in a huge building with several other practices and services yet no security guard. When we have phoned the police for violent events and threats in the past, sometimes they have responded promptly but sometimes they have taken ages to arrive. We need a button with a direct link to local police services who have instructions to come immediately to aid any GP or practice staff member facing the risk of assault.
“Panic buttons” is empty talk designed to sound like the government takes this seriously and is doing something when in fact it is not doing anything to tackle this effectively. More needs to be done to stop this violent threat escalating further and that needs there to be an end to the antiGP lies and rhetoric we are seeing in the media. It would help if the government, NHSE, DH stopped feeding the media campaign against GPs, stopped telling lies about us not providing face to face appointments, and started funding General Practice properly and supporting it properly. GPs are being scapegoated by the government for the governments failings with the NHS – an easy target. I hold the government directly responsible for any violence against GPs and their staff.

Peter Ilves 18 October, 2021 10:24 am

Is this an acknowledgment of the inevitable increase, on top of the existing prevalence, of violence and abuse against GPs and Primary Care?
What might have recently increased this risk, that might have led to this funding being released, needed and justified?
is this a heavily veiled ‘we are sorry’?

Vinci Ho 18 October, 2021 10:33 am

Every matter has its origin and end ; every incident has its roots and consequences .
So are you going to address the root of the problem, Mr Secretary of State ?🤨😈 Otherwise, are you are scratching the surfaces?👿🤨
I was watching Matrix trilogy( preparing for the new movie in Christmas) . I suppose we , GP , all need to ‘download’ skill programmes , just like in the film when Neo said on opening his eyes ,’ I know Kung Fu’???🤔😂

Ravi Ramanathan 18 October, 2021 10:45 am

If a person is violent, abusive or threatening to their GP or any general practice staff, they can be permanently removed from the surgery.’
Does this mean that patients who behave as above can be removed without a warning and waiting for 2nd incident before the removal can be initiated.We currently write to the patient and give a warning and only remove with repeated offence.Reception staff are in particular suffering terrible abuse which is verbal but having impact on their moral .

Michael Mullineux 18 October, 2021 12:06 pm

‘Zero Tolerance With Multiple Caveats and Provisos so Actually a Considerable Amount of Tolerance Policy’

Darren Tymens 18 October, 2021 12:19 pm

Panic buttons? A gimmick. We all have them built in to our clinical systems anyway. Doesn’t help my receptionist or colleagues if someone, stoked up by press and politicians, attacks them with an iron bar does it? And nor does a hand-wringing letter from NK.
Looks good if the press ask about it though., which is all they care about
Instead, how about corporate culpability for anyone stoking up violence against GPs though lies and misinformation? Include NHSE and politicians on that list, alongside the DM and DT.
Zero Tolerance? What nonsense – where are the regulatory changes we need to be able enforce this? INstead, practices still have to go through the usual offlisting process or risk fines from the ombudsman. Again, it is just to make NHSE look as if they are doing something.
In the meantime, local area teams are being told to fix bayonets in order to come after the 20%.

Dr N 18 October, 2021 12:29 pm

The noise from all these panic buttons going off will be deafening!

A bit like crashing a car and then trying to get insurance to mend it.

IDGAF . 18 October, 2021 12:36 pm

A well trained German Shepherd lying in its basket in the corner of the room would be my preference.

Nathaniel Dixon 18 October, 2021 1:06 pm

I’ve never worked in a surgery without an emergency button nor will I. Can’t believe anyone would so again announcing what we already have, no change there. NHSE have of course contributed significantly in the abuse we are now getting and continue as evidenced last week to leak to the right wing press ahead of the profession to ensure abuse continues.

Kevlar Cardie 18 October, 2021 2:28 pm
Patrufini Duffy 18 October, 2021 2:37 pm

Political wool. And how much do politicians spend on security, either around the Houses of Commons, at venues or in transit? They are the ones shielding themselves from the public – we do double standards, hypocrisy and polite hate so well in this country, with utter excellence.

The Prime Minister 18 October, 2021 5:39 pm


The Prime Minister 18 October, 2021 5:41 pm


James Weems 18 October, 2021 9:07 pm

Will practices who are struggling and not able to manage their requisite f2f appointments (ie, the bottom 20pc) not get access to this fund? Assume so. That’s nice.