N Irish GPs left to cope with patient violence

A woman GP in Northern Ireland has reported how her life was threatened by a patient during a home visit last year because her area does not have a directed enhanced service (DES) for violent patients.

The incident occurred in the Northern Health and Social Services Board (HSSB) which has been unable to commission a DES to handle violent patients, and places them with other practices 'on a voluntary basis'.

The Southern and Western HSSBs have not commissioned the DES, despite being legally required to since April 2004.

The GP, who does not wish to be identified, said she had been 'frightened and upset' although she was not physically assaulted.

The incident took place in June 2005 in Newtownabbey, County Antrim.

'The patient was released from prison and joined the practice list,' she said.

The GP reported the incident to the police 'to ensure that this man had to be classified as potentially violent to future practices'.

'It is worrying that our board has not met its obligations under the DES,' the GP said.

The Northern HSSB confirmed that despite its 'extensive efforts' to commission a violence service, none of the practices in the area were prepared to take it on. It is now in talks with out-of-hours centres.

Since April 2004, eight violent patients removed from GPs' lists have been placed voluntarily with other surgeries, the Northern HSSB said.

In the Western HSSB area, two practices are also accepting violent patients on a voluntary case-by-case basis. In the Southern HSSB area the service is subcontracted out to the Eastern HSSB, the only board to provide a violence scheme.

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