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.