Half of GPs face weekly conflicts with difficult patients, a leading defence organisation has claimed.
A survey carried out by the Medical Protection Society also suggested this was having a negative impact on recruitment and retention.
The survey of 254 GPs has revealed that 52% experience challenging interactions with patients on a weekly basis, while 13% were facing them daily, and over a fifth believe that conflict is ascerbating recruitment and retention problems
Respondents blamed unrealistic patient expectations (72%) – with 93% believing patient expectations are higher than five years ago – followed by alcohol/drug misuse by the patient (41%).
Some 75% of the GPs surveyed have experienced verbal abuse while 74% have faced aggressive demands for treatment or drugs and 51% have experienced violent or aggressive behaviour.
One in three (29%) GPs said they had even considered leaving the profession due to the stress and anxiety caused by an experience with a challenging patient and only 24% felt their training had equipped them to deal with these situations.
Dr Pallavi Bradshaw, senior medicolegal adviser at MPS, said dealing with abusuvive patients ‘understandably impacts on GPs’ stress levels, morale and fear of litigation’.
She said: ‘At a time when general practice is already facing recruitment problems, it is worrying that 22% said challenging patients make it difficult to recruit and retain staff… Healthcare is an emotive issue and it is understandable that conflict will arise when there are differing opinions.
‘We need to ensure that GPs have the right support and training to manage difficult situations and maintain a good doctor-patient relationship.’