Survey shows high levels of abuse of UK doctors by patients | Doctors

More than half of UK doctors have seen or experienced abuse from patients or loved ones in the past year, including incidents in which they were spat at and threatened.

Doctors have had their hair pulled out, leaned against a wall and suffered racist abuse, an investigation and a dossier of testimony compiled by a medical organization have revealed.

Long delays for care and staff shortages are cited as the main triggers for what NHS leaders say is an increased public willingness to be aggressive towards frontline staff.

Research from the Medical Protection Society (MPS) found that 56% of physicians surveyed had experienced or witnessed a situation of verbal or physical abuse in the past year.

Nearly half said the incidents happened because of a lack of staff, while 45% blamed patient frustration on having to wait a long time for treatment.

One doctor told MPS how “a patient’s partner threatened to kill me because he felt his wife had waited too long to be seen”, while another said: “I had a handful of hair pulled out while patient was handcuffed and with police.”

A third described being “backed against a wall by parents who wanted better care for their child in intensive care. We literally had no staff.

Another said: ‘I was physically and verbally abused by a patient because of how long he would have to wait for his operation.

Professor Jane Dacre, chair of the MPS, said that while staff shortages and long waits could be “frustrating and stressful” for patients and their families, frontline staff were “doing their best under very difficult circumstances “.

She said: “While many patient interactions are positive, it is distressing that so many healthcare workers face daily verbal and physical abuse from patients, including spitting and threats.”

General practitioners as well as hospital doctors have been the target of abuse, with frustration getting appointments being a common trigger.

A family doctor said that there was “daily abuse from the reception staff about the lack of appointments and regular anger towards the general practitioners from relatives and patients about [hospital] care and primary [GP] waiting time for care”.

A second GP said: ‘Aggressive and abusive language and behavior [is] often referred to the reception team.

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