Exclusive: UK patients most abusive in Europe

UK GPs suffer the highest abuse from patients in Europe, according to the findings of the latest European Barometer survey.

One in three UK GPs said they had been physically attacked by a patient and 94 per cent said they had been verbally abused.

Not only were UK GPs more likely to be sworn at or shouted at by their patients, this abuse was more likely to be repetitive.

In the UK, 81 per cent of GPs said they had been verbally abused more than once, compared with only 70 per cent in Spain, 64 per cent in France, 61 per cent in Germany and 38 per cent in Italy.

The European Barometer survey, carried out by research firm Stethos for GP and the leading medical magazines in Spain, Italy, France and Germany, questioned over 200 GPs in each country.

It found that only French GPs were subject to similar levels of physical attack as UK GPs, with 32 per cent of GPs also reporting having been assaulted.

Italy and Spain had the lowest rates of patient violence. Only 15 per cent of Italian GPs and 20 per cent of Spanish GPs said they had been assaulted.

Dr Jean-Pierre Cantin, a French GP now working in Lincolnshire, believes that patient hostility is often related to drug use.

He said: 'In my experience the hostility I have seen in both France and England has been mostly from people using drugs.

'This is not universal - it is quite a specific group.'

The 2005 annual report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs Addiction found the UK and France had the highest prevalence of cannabis use, and the UK had the highest prevalence of cocaine use in Europe.

The violent patient directed enhanced service (DES) has 'helped but not solved the problem of violence' in Scotland, Wales and England, said Derbyshire LMCs' secretary Dr John Grenville.

'To have a patient allocated to a violence scheme, they have to have exhibited a history of violence - this means that everyone has a first time.'

Three of the four health boards in Northern Ireland are now in contravention of their obligation from April 2004 to offer a violence DES.

SURVEY RESULTS

GP victims of physical violence:

UK: 32%
France: 32%
Germany: 31%
Spain: 20%
Italy: 15%

GP victims of verbal abuse:
UK: 94%
Spain: 88%
Germany: 85%
France: 81%
Italy: 75%

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