Abuse from patients more common in primary care, says BMA

Doctors in primary care are more likely than doctors in secondary care to report that violence and abuse from patients is a problem, a BMA Northern Ireland report reveals.

The BMA 'survey of violence in the workplace in Northern Ireland' showed 56% of doctors in primary care report that violence and abuse from patients is a problem, compared to 53% in secondary care.

It also highlighted that 54% of respondents across secondary and primary care thought there was a problem regarding the level of violence from patients in their workplace - an increase of 9% on findings from a BMA survey in 2006.

BMA Northern Ireland is calling for patients and their relatives to stop abusing doctors who are trying to provide treatment.

It is also demanding that patients with a history of violence be identified by having a warning marker placed on their health record.

This information should be shared between all healthcare organisations including primary, secondary and community care organisations, enabling healthcare staff to take appropriate precautions to ensure their own safety.

Dr Paul Darragh, chairman of the BMA's Council in Northern Ireland, said the findings were ‘incredibly worrying'.

‘The abuse is often random, with no particular motivation behind the physical violence. The effect of threats, abuse and assaults impact not only on doctors on the receiving end, but also the wider healthcare team and other patients,' he said.

'Doctors are here to treat patients and should not be prevented from doing so by violent and abusive patients and their families. While we welcome work that has been carried out to date, more needs to be done to both prevent verbal and physical attacks from taking place, and to support staff who have been assaulted while doing their job.'

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