A GP working at a Derby practice that saw its waiting room trashed by a patient last week says the incident was ‘not isolated’ and staff are working in an ‘increasingly aggressive’ environment.
Last Thursday, a patient requesting medication at Wilson Street Surgery in Derby ‘tore apart’ the waiting room after he became unhappy with reception staff directing him to the usual medication ordering process, Dr Shehla Imtiaz-Umer, a GP at the practice, told Pulse.
The patient ripped a display shelf with leaflets off the wall, threw chairs around, flipped a table, and tipped over a stack of boxes containing supplies such as masks. There were thankfully no other patients in the waiting room at the time and no staff were injured, Dr Imtiaz-Umer said.
Pulse understands that police were called to the scene and the practice is now awaiting the outcome of the investigation.
Dr Imtiaz-Umer added that while this was ‘the most extreme example’ of abuse recently encountered by the practice, the incident was ‘not an isolated event’.
The practice has had to pull its panic alarm – which alerts all staff on the premises that there is an incident or threat of violence – four times in the last month alone.
She said: ‘I’ve had a patient become physically threatening, again over medication, while he was sitting in the room with me. I felt so physically threatened that I had to pull the panic alarm to get colleagues in to escort him out of the room. It’s unfortunate that we are having to work in those circumstances, and I think it’s really sad.’
Dr Imtiaz-Umer told Pulse that over the last 18 months ‘minimum’ there had been a ‘surge’ in threats of physical violence and verbal aggression which has ‘continued unabated’, despite the practice having returned to offering predominantly face-to-face consultations.
‘The frustrations across the healthcare system obviously come across in our interactions with patients over the phone, but it seems to have now seeped into face-to-face contacts where patients feel that they can actually express their frustration against our receptionists and our clinicians.
‘It is something that we have seen certainly over the last 18 months minimum and it’s just a persistent and increasingly aggressive environment that we’re working within,’ she said.
She added that the anti-GP narrative in the media was fuelling the increase in abuse.
‘I’ve been a doctor for 10 years and I would say that the anti-GP vitriol and anti-GP rhetoric that has been portrayed by the media in terms of us apparently failing to do what we need to be doing fuels that frustration in patients and they think it’s appropriate to take it out on us,’ she said.
‘This is despite the data showing that we are working harder than ever and actually delivering more appointments than pre-pandemic. That messaging just doesn’t seem to be getting through to the public at all.’
The latest NHS Digital data shows 32.9 million appointments were delivered in general practice in November 2022, of which 69% were carried out face-to-face.
Dr Imtiaz-Umer added that GPs are working as hard as they can and if patients are unhappy with the services of the NHS ‘then they need to take that up with the politicians’.
‘I just feel we are working as hard as we can with our hands tied behind our backs and we appear to be bearing the brunt of a lot of frustration from patients from a lot of different areas. We’re stuck really and we can’t do much more than we already are unless there is the political willpower to change that.’
This comes as at least three unprovoked attacks took place in practices in Essex and Surrey alone before Christmas.