Nearly a third of GPs (31 per cent) faced violence or abuse from patients in 2007, higher than most doctors and second only to junior doctors. The majority of incidents involved verbal insults (97 per cent), but 31 per cent of abusive encounters also led to physical assault.
Only 48 per cent of doctors went on to report the incident or take further action, such as removing a patient from their list.
Salaried GPs were less likely to experience violent incidents (25 per cent) than GP principals or locums (36.4 and 31.6 per cent respectively).
Despite an overall decrease in the proportion of doctors reporting violence compared with a 2003 survey, there appears to be an increased incidence and acceptance of physical violence against doctors, says the BMA.
The majority of cases were because the patient was unhappy with the service.
BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said the lack of reporting was worrying: 'We hope that this is not because they feel the problem is not taken seriously.'
GPs were more positive about a policy of zero tolerance to violence than hospital doctors.
The data was compiled from 591 responses to a postal survey in Britain, including 244 GPs.
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