Worrying level of abuse directed at healthcare staff

  • Date: 11 August 2021

A BMA survey has found that over a third of doctors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have suffered recent abuse from patients or those close to them.

Around 2,400 doctors responded to the survey conducted in July 2021, which the BMA says “reveals a worrying level of abuse directed at doctors and their colleagues as they deal with the greatest health crisis in a generation.”

More than a third (37 per cent) of all respondents had experienced verbal abuse first-hand in the most recent month – including 51 per cent of GPs and 30 per cent of hospital doctors. Half of respondents (51 per cent) had witnessed violence or abuse against other staff, which rose to 67 per cent for doctors working in general practice, most (96 per cent) directed at reception staff.

The survey also found that 67 per cent of GPs said their experience of abuse, threatening behaviour or violence had got worse in the last year. Respondents reported a number of factors they felt were behind the incidents, with 64 per cent saying the perpetrator was dissatisfied with the service or access.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, commented: “The last year-and-a-half has been an incredibly challenging time for both doctors and patients, and many doctors share the frustration of their patients around unfamiliar ways of working, or if waiting times are too long. However, abuse, violence and threats are absolutely unacceptable and should never be tolerated.

“There must be an honest public conversation, led by the Government and NHS England, about the precarious state the NHS now finds itself in after 18 months of managing a pandemic, so that people have realistic expectations, and to prevent staff bearing the brunt of frustration and anger."

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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