'How would you escape if you were attacked?'

Vicious assault upon young female doctor leads to calls for surgeries to review locks and security.

A trainee doctor who was seriously assaulted in the consulting room has urged all GPs to consider how they would escape if attacked.

Dr Johannah Langmead, 23, received serious facial injuries and needed seven weeks off work, suffering anxiety and flashbacks after the unprovoked attack during her F2 year in March 2007.

A patient at Wylam Health Centre, Prudhoe, Northumberland, interrupted Dr Langmead while she was signing prescriptions, bolted the consulting room door, knocked her to the ground and continued punching her. He said later that he was trying to kill her. Her screams alerted staff.

'I recommend all practices to assess the locks on their doors and all doctors to imagine how they would get out of their room,' Dr Langmead says in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP).

Safety recommendations made by Northumbria Healthcare Trust are 'critical to the safety of all practitioners', Dr Langmead says.

They include removing internal locks on surgery doors that can prolong attacks where they are not needed for privacy; reassessing room layouts to prevent patients covering the exits; considering locks for doors from waiting rooms to protect staff from public areas.

Dr Rod Donaldson, a partner and trainer at West Wylam Health Centre, said that since the attack turn-bolt locks have been removed from consulting rooms and key pad controlled doors installed in the clinical corridors. But he cautioned against 'immediate reaction' and said 'a balanced choice of action' was needed.

'This event was an awful one to have happened but would be useful to be considered as one of the risk scenarios in any buildings review,' he said.

Following the attack, the patient was given a two-year supervision order.

Dr Langmead is now a GP registrar in East Cumbria.

BJGP: 58; 551; 439

How should GPs be protected against violent patients? Tell us what you think at GPletters@haymarket.com.

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