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GP practice stops offering face-to-face reception to protect staff from abuse

GP practice stops offering face-to-face reception to protect staff from abuse

A GP practice has stopped offering a face-to-face reception after staff suffered ‘excessive verbal abuse and physical intimidation’ from patients.

Oakham Medical Practice in Rutland has this week moved its reception staff off the front desk and out of sight of patients.

The decision followed verbal abuse from patients directed at the receptionists, and physical intimidation including a patient trying to scale the reception desk.

The receptionists are still using the telephones and intercom at the front, and patients attending the practice can check in for their appointments using a screen.

The GP partners will reconsider the decision after one month.

GP partner Dr Adam Crowther told Pulse the practice has had ‘a number of issues associated with threats of violence and intimidation’. 

He gave examples such as ‘patients videoing staff and trying to video in the waiting rooms. 

‘We had a patient try to scale over the reception as [they were] not getting what they wanted, which prompted the closure of the front desk to help reception feel safe and secure.’

Dr Crowther said it was a ‘sad decision but the only way to protect staff and, ultimately, patient services’.

He said it comes amid ‘sustained council and social media rhetoric’ which ‘seems to have whipped the populous into a frenzy.

‘Suddenly the boundaries of decent behaviour for people desperately trying to keep a service going for the benefit of all have been lost.’

According to the Dr Crowther, abuse from patients has increased gradually as demand has come to ‘outstrip’ supply, however his practice has ‘good access comparative to our CCG and PCN’.

He added: ‘The sad thing is that all of the unjust negativity just makes it more difficult to recruit and retain really great staff who have really given their all over the last two-three years,’ he added.

A message on the practice’s website, first spotted by the Rutland & Stamford Mercury, reads: ‘Due to excessive verbal abuse and physical intimidation of our patient-services team, the partners have made the decision to close our front desk. Patients with booked appointments can check in using the screen in the foyer.

‘For any other queries, please see our “contact us” page for the different ways in which you can get in touch.

‘Our patients-services team are working extremely hard and should not have to tolerate abuse. Please be mindful of the way in which you speak to all members of our team.

‘The partners will reassess the situation in one month.’

Almost one in three GPs and practice staff have been physically abused at work by patients, according to the shocking results of a recent survey.

Rising levels of abuse against GPs and staff

Over the summer last year, GP practices were targeted with hoax bomb threats and receptionists were attacked with blood-soaked tissues.

Later in the month, a man was charged with assault after attacking four staff members at a GP practice in Manchester.

And a Staffordshire GP surgery was forced to close for two days due to staff receiving verbal patient abuse.

Rising levels of abuse against GP practice and pharmacy staff has prompted one ICS to launch a campaign urging patients to consider what would happen if the staff member quit their job.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police is working with Londonwide LMCs to produce guidance for GP practices on how to minimise violence towards staff.



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

SUBHASH BHATT 17 May, 2022 4:16 pm

My sympathies for staff. Very sad to hear this.

Mark Essop 17 May, 2022 4:17 pm

I think this type of response may just add fuel to the fire and anger those who have done nothing wrong. Legislation came into effect on 28th April to protect people serving the public, which would make this sort of abuse an aggravated offence. Perhaps practices should make use of this new law rather than risking alienation of the majority of civilised patients.

David Church 17 May, 2022 5:50 pm

Those ‘civilised’ patients who have stood by and allowed this abuse to occur HAVE done something wrong, by not acting in defence of the abused staff.
it is now time for the Patient Participation Group to hold a public meeting and arrange for a public campaign to change patient behaviour, along with possibly posting volunteer assistants in the waiting area to ensure such behaviour cannot happen again?
They might also consider removing all newspapers from the wating area until such time as the journalists stop inciting violence against staff (isn;t that a criminal offence anyway? perhaps Met Police should investigate and imprison agents provocateurs within the news media?)

Bonglim Bong 17 May, 2022 5:51 pm

Each and every patient should be referred to the violent patient scheme. That is the best way for things to stop.

It also provides extra resources to go with the abusive patients, so that they do not take an excessive amount of resources away from other patients.

Vinci Ho 17 May, 2022 7:32 pm

Ok ,another interesting dilemma subjected to arguments . Call me biased that I have to believe this story , although one can challenge me that we do not know all the details :
(1) First of all , I would quote what John Locke wrote about rule of law( as opposed to rule by law) and freedom :
John Locke defined freedom under the rule of law as follows:
“Freedom is constrained by laws in both the state of nature and political society. Freedom of nature is to be under no other restraint but the law of nature. Freedom of people under government is to be under no restraint apart from standing rules to live by that are common to everyone in the society and made by the lawmaking power established in it…. ‘’
( sorry , a bit boring )
That means there is always an argument that everyone must respect and recognise the boundary of law in a civic society . A behaviour proven to have broken an established law ,even though out of frustration and/or ignorance , deserves the appropriate penalty . That is exactly the principle why our prime minister and Chancellor must be fined for their proven behaviour during those lockdown days. I internationally , whichever country fired the first bullet against another sovereign one ,whatever the arguments were , had already broken an international law . Whereas coming back in this case , it is called physical and/or verbal abuse of NHS staff . So what does our law say ?
And what happens if our system is genuinely broken down with laws failing to serve the purposes of our civic society and commonly agreed social contract with people . I would quote here from one of my most favourite Christopher Nolan’s films, Dark Knight Rises ( some would criticise the ideology of the film was right-winged ):
‘’There is a point far out there when the structure fail you , when the rules aren’t weapon anymore.
They are shackles letting the bad guys get ahead.’’
Jim Gordon
(2) Then I have to quote my favourite philosopher ,Michael J Sandell :
‘’Arguments about justice and rights are often arguments about the purpose, or telos, of a social institution, which in turn reflect competing notions of the virtues the institution should reward and honour .”
Then my question is , what are telos and virtues currently held and propagated by the governing leaders of the NHS system ?
Are they realistic ?
We , medical professionals, know our code and will travel the furthest distance to help and save our patients. Look at how our frontline staff at all level sacrificing themselves during the pandemic . And now look at how they have been treated ? They simply suffer because of politically correct but unrealistic and dishonest claims(and reforms)made by those high up in the hierarchy , generating expectations which ultimately will end up with the consequence of putting both our frontline colleagues and patients in harms way . As my own motto goes ,’ It is only a fine line between politically correct diplomacy and dangerously flawed hypocrisy ‘ . Now I am concerned the we are irrevocably stuck in the latter .
Mr Health Secretary , have you got the audacity , humility and honesty to provide people in our country the realistic big picture ? Medical professionals at the frontline can only serve their patients under the currently set rules and regulations in NHS as we do not have any power after all . Once again , are these rules and regulations (then expectations) realistic ?😑
(3)Finally , let’s change the mood for a second for the sake of Star Wars fans with these quotes 😄:

‘’Jedi are bound to a code of ethics, morality, principles, honor and justice.
There is no emotion; there is peace .
There is no ignorance; there is knowledge
There is no passion ; there is serenity .
There is no death; there is the force ‘’
‘’Jedi must have the deepest commitment , the most serious mind ‘’ Yoda
So , my question is ,’ who and what are responsible for killing off the Jedi knights in NHS , Mr Health Secretary?’ 🤔🤨

Apology to those who do not like the length of my comment .🙏

Cameron Wilson 17 May, 2022 9:58 pm

Bloomin eck, Vinci, you must be up there with the best read contributers going! Really appreciate your posts and so spot on!

Patrufini Duffy 18 May, 2022 9:09 am

I hope their Friends and Family feedback box is outside the surgery.
And the complaints policy is available with pencils and pens.
NHSE and CQC like that sort of “dialogue” and the odd PPG meeting to explore the “issue”.
You may also want to supply the violent public with some bricks and toilet roll in case to enable their “needs” and “wants”.

Dave Haddock 18 May, 2022 11:37 am

I would really like to sympathise with the staff in this Practice.
But having struggled to get appropriate care when I needed it from a Practice that locked the doors for months on end I find my stock of sympathy somewhat diminished.

Samir Shah 18 May, 2022 1:12 pm

@Dave Haddock. Agree but remember General Practice has been doing their best to help. But this isn’t a level playing field. It’s like sending a team of 7 players to play against a full team in a football match. You can’t blame the players and manager for losing the match if they gave it their all, can you?
Likewise, frustration should be directed towards the MP and government.
If the club doesn’t listen, then hope for a change of ownership. No manager and team can be expected to play to win when you don’t have enough players.

Long Gone 18 May, 2022 2:13 pm

Disclaimer – I left the Performers list last year after 30+ years.
So I am now a patient not a GP. And I do lament the change in ease of access to my practice – which has now amalgamated so I’d have to go to another location for a F2F. But I absolutely and steadfastly refuse to lay the blame for this mess at the door of the GPs – at least not the ones on the frontline (trying) to do the work. We all know why this happened and how we got here – A&R, complaints and litigation, CQC, GMC, media vilification, pensions, increasing complex chronic illnesses, etc etc.
And this perfect storm is exactly why it can only get worse – because to slow, halt or reverse the decay, we’d need many powers to act in unison and pretty damned quickly and decisively. That is not going to happen. And that too is not the fault of the GPs on the frontline.

Vinci Ho 21 May, 2022 9:02 am

Some may not agree with me on this and I will keep this comment short :
• none of us , GP , is asking anyone gor any sympathy
• As a patient as well (off sick now nearly four months requiring help of both my GP and psychiatrist ) , I think I can say that the system is so broken that all frontline professionals and patients are at risks .
• Morale of experienced GPs , specialists , nurses , paramedics etc is at historic low . Exasperated, they are leaving the frontline rapidly . Do you really think many of them want to leave their patients if they have better options?That is where I would for some sympathy 🙏
• Instead of sympathy, we all in NHS are asking for justice from an ignorant , calamitous ,unrealistic but also arrogant government(with a PM and Chancellor proven to break the law and were fined; not to mention the previous health secretary caught and sacked by a secret affair in office ) with little humility and honesty .
That is exactly the crystal clear and unique reason why we should have a totally independent inquiry on Covid 19 pandemic last three years . Is that a lot to ask , ladies and gentlemen?🤨😑

Vinci Ho 21 May, 2022 9:23 am

‘’If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.’’
George Orwell

And that is exactly the spirit of this long overdue independent inquiry.