Pulse’s latest investigation has revealed the damaging impact of rising abuse towards GPs and other practice staff. Here, A GP trainee in South West England, who wishes to remain anonymous, describes her experience of being physically assaulted by an angry patient.
‘A male patient, who was unfamiliar to me, was booked in for a face-to-face, but I couldn’t see on the computer what it was for. I was about five minutes late calling him through because I was on call that morning and various things had come up.
I didn’t recognise it at the time but when we were walking up the corridor to my room, he was muttering and swearing a bit. I couldn’t quite hear him, so I just said: “sorry to keep you waiting” and took him into my room. I then told him I was unsure what the appointment was for and asked him to tell me.
He was immediately very angry and took me by surprise. He said: “aren’t you supposed to f***ing tell me? Shouldn’t you f***ing know? You keep me f***ing waiting, and you don’t even know what you’re doing?”
I was relatively new to the practice at the time, and I wasn’t actually aware of, or didn’t remember, that there is a panic button on the computer screen. So, I just said: “Look, you can either try and tell me what’s going on, [and] what the appointment is for, or I think I’m going to have to ask you to leave”.
His body language was very aggressive, so I stood up and opened the door and said “I’m inviting you to leave”. He stood up, grabbed me by the collar of my scrub top and pulled me towards him and then called me a variety of names.
Then he let me go and stormed off down to reception to shout at them for a while. I went behind the reception where he couldn’t see me, just to tell them what had happened. The reception staff were very kind.
We have security guards in the practice all the time, and he was shouting at them. When the practice manager realised, she asked them to remove him, and they said they were going to call the police and that was enough for him to actually go with security and leave.
The practice manager later reported the incident to the police because it was assault, and I believe officers later went and cautioned him.
That day I had the rest of my surgery to do but I took a short break with the reception staff and bought them all pizza for lunch because they’d been so kind to me. The rest of the day was fine, I think only afterwards as I was going home, I was a bit worried about leaving the surgery, and if the patient would be outside. I was a bit worried by that because I walk or run to work every day. The next morning, I actually took a different way into the surgery where there’s more people on the street.
When the practice manager called him to tell him he was being removed from the practice list, he did say that he was going to “get me” so it was quite worrisome for quite a while.
It made me a bit fearful and it has made me look at people’s body language as they’re walking towards my room, rather than just striding ahead of them to lead the way – just so that maybe I could get a heads up that something was about to happen.
It’s not a great feeling, the incident made me a lot more guarded and potentially less empathetic for patients beyond him, because it just made me think “what’s the point in breaking your back when you get treated like that?”’