Longer hours increase risk of violence for GPs

GPs who work long hours run a greater risk of being verbally abused or physically attacked by a patient.

Australian research, published in the British Journal of General Practice, questioned 216 GPs and found that those who had experienced an attack work more hours each week than those who had not.

The average working week of those who had been physically attacked was found to be 51 hours, 14 hours a week more than the average working week of those who had not.

In terms of verbal abuse the average working week of victims was 39 hours, compared with just 35 hours for those who had never experienced such abuse.

Findings are released as the DoH pushes for half of practices in England to extend their surgery hours. Last week GP reported that nothing would persuade 25.8 per cent of GPs to extend opening hours.

Dr John Grenville, Derbyshire LMC secretary and a victim of an attack while at work, said: 'I'm not surprised by these findings. If you work longer hours then your awareness levels and communication skills drop. Maybe being tired means that you don't spot the signs when a patient is going to lose control.'

The promotion of relaxation techniques as well as attending courses about recognising the signs of an aggressive situation are among key recommendations made in the report, called 'Prevalence and predictors of occupational violence and aggression towards GPs'.

Of the 216 GPs surveyed, 57 per cent had experienced violence at work. Of those, 44 per cent had experienced verbal abuse, 22 per cent had felt intimidated and 3 per cent had been physically attacked.

Research found that length of service as a GP also helps to limit the risk of aggression from patients. Of those who had been intimidated by a patient the average length of time worked as a GP was 16 years, compared with an average of 21 years among those who had not.

In addition, single-handers were less likely to experience verbal abuse, with 89 per cent of those in group practices saying they had been verbally abused, compared with 79 per cent of singlehanders.

GPletters@haymarket.com

BJGP 57; 545; 967-70

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