GP stabbing prompts call for tougher laws

Fresh calls for new laws to punish patients who attack GPs were prompted this week after a knife attack on a Scottish GP.

Dr Helen Jackson was stabbed three times by a man thought to be one of her patients at the surgery she shares with her brother Dr Paul Jackson in the Hyndland Road area of west Glasgow at 10am on 30 August.

The 56-year-old GP was able to return home a day later.

Scottish GPC negotiator and Glasgow LMC medical secretary Dr Barbara West said: ‘This attack raises very important questions. Helen works out of a small practice in the West End of Glasgow. But some GPs are far more isolated.

'We all do home visits and it isn't practical for us to have a police escort. It's vital that we make it plain that assaulting GPs is no more acceptable than ass­aulting any other health worker.

'Even if the injuries aren't serious it can be terrifying and going back to work can be hard.'

The Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act, which came into effect in May 2005, carried with it advice for magistrates to use the full weight of the law - a maximum nine-month jail sentence and a £5,000 fine for assaulting health workers.

But GPs are excluded from the law, which was brought in after a spate of attacks in which youths lured emergency workers to estates with hoax 999 calls before ambushing them and pelting them with rocks.

Mandatory jail terms are also being considered in Northern Ireland, but GPs receive no such protection in the rest of the UK.

England health minister Ann Keen has promised 'new powers' to tackle the problem of abusive patients after shadow health minister Andrew Lansley challenged the government to take action in two private members' questions in June.

The questions were prompted by a GP survey - 'Jail patients who attack GPs' - which found 75 per cent of 263 GPs that favoured jail sentences for patients who assaulted GPs.

But a spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive played down an imminent law change.

She said: 'The decision to bring in the Act was made by a previous administration. We are looking at whether it should be amended to include GPs in light of recent events.'

henry.ellis@haymarket.com

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