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Patients on NHS waiting lists abuse GPs, finds survey

Patients on NHS waiting lists abuse GPs, finds survey

GPs having to tell patients of long waiting lists for hospital treatment face a risk of abuse, a survey has shown.

More than seven in ten GPs have seen or witnessed verbal or physical abuse from patients or their relatives in the past year, the Medical Protection Society (MPS) warned.

A survey of doctors also found that 92% of the GPs who experienced or witnessed abuse in the past 12 months said it had affected their mental health.

Two in five respondents said the increase in abuse and intimidation from patients has made them consider their career in healthcare.

It follows a Pulse investigation published earlier this month which laid bare how practices are being impacted by increasing physical, verbal and social media abuse.

In Nottinghamshire last year a practice had to be evacuated with staff needing medical attention after a patient turned violent.

Other practices have reported premises being vandalised amidst the rise in aggressive and threatening behaviour.

The MPS survey of 900 doctors, 271 of them GPs, found for those in primary care, staff shortages and referral waiting lists were two main drivers of the abuse they were getting.

Comments included GPs saying members of the team had been verbally abused, threatened and spat at.

One respondent said a patient had attacked staff and destroyed the waiting room because of the waiting time for a GP appointment.

Others pointed to patients taking out their frustration at having to wait for their operation or secondary care appointment.

‘Telling patients that there is an 80-week wait for their referral causes conflict and we take the blame,’ one anonymous GP said.

The survey also found nearly a third of GPs (31%) feel abuse against healthcare workers is not taken seriously by police.

The MPS called on the Government and police to take every possible step to tackle this issue or face losing ‘many more skilled, committed healthcare workers during a time when the profession can ill-afford it’.

MPS president Professor Dame Jane Dacre said: ‘While staff shortages and long referral waiting lists are frustrating and stressful for patients and their families, GPs and practice staff are doing their best in very difficult circumstances.

‘While many patient interactions are positive it is distressing that so many practice team members face daily verbal and physical abuse from patients – including being spat at and threatened.’

She added: ‘What is perhaps worse is the notion that abuse is becoming “part of the job” with some becoming desensitised to it and therefore neither reporting nor seeking support following incidents.’

‘Abuse against healthcare workers should not be normalised. Experiencing and witnessing abuse can have a lasting and profound impact on mental health and this can be damaging for the individual as well as for patient care.

‘The zero-tolerance policy to abuse must be rigorously enforced right across the NHS so healthcare workers feel their safety is a priority and are empowered to report all abusive behaviour. The policy must also be visible to patients as a deterrent.’

BMA Northern Ireland recently warned that GPs are being sued by patients experiencing long waits for hospital treatment.



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

Some Bloke 22 June, 2023 1:47 pm

patients on NHS waiting lists abuse GPs, NHSE abuses GPs, everyone abuses GPs! If you are not abusing GPs- what’s wrong with you?

Sam Macphie 22 June, 2023 2:13 pm

Dr Bloke appears not to use his real name. A real name would be good, otherwise we all might think you’re just ‘some bloke’ down the road.

Truth Finder 22 June, 2023 2:23 pm

The problem now is that no one takes responsibility. Child protection cases blame the GP, social workers etc. Everyone except the abuser. Really ridiculous. I have stopped taking any abuse from patients about the hospital waiting lists that I have zero control over.

John Graham Munro 22 June, 2023 2:42 pm

On the occasions when I feel G.Ps need a bollocking I say so———-I’ve never used a pseudonym

Some Bloke 22 June, 2023 4:57 pm

Sam, I enjoy using this pseudonym. It is perfectly wihin the rules on this forum to use it. It does not bother me that some people may think less of me because of that. I am well past the stage where I try to please everyone. You are also wellcome to call yourself whatever you like. Best wishes.

Ladyham X 22 June, 2023 5:54 pm

JGM – I find your obvious pride and enjoyment in “bollocking” your colleagues very sad. Have you not read this article?

“92% of the GPs who experienced or witnessed abuse in the past 12 months said it had affected their mental health”

“Two in five respondents said the increase in abuse and intimidation from patients has made them consider their career in healthcare”

There is enough abuse of GPs currently without a colleague joining in. I’m pretty sure that most GPs on this forum are tired of your negativity.

John Graham Munro 22 June, 2023 7:44 pm

Ladyham X I’m sure you are all tired of my ”negativity”———–so am I

Slobber Dog 23 June, 2023 9:14 am

I’m afraid that negativity is the new reality.