Northern Ireland could be first to jail all patients who assault GPs

Northern Ireland may be the first country in the UK to introduce mandatory prison sentences for patients who attack GPs.

A Bill being discussed by the Northern Ireland Assembly, if ratified, would mean assaulting hospital doctors and GPs would carry a penalty of up to nine months in prison.

The hard line was adopted in Scotland in 2005 for attacks on blue-light workers but not GPs.

In England and Wales attacks on GPs, doctors and nurses do not carry mandatory prison sentences and abuse of staff often goes unreported.

A BMA survey in Northern Ireland in December revealed that nearly 40 per cent of GPs considered violent patients to be a problem at their practices and 30 per cent thought the situation was worsening.

Most had been assaulted verbally in the 12 months to December by patients and many had been physically assaulted.

BMA Northern Ireland chairman Dr Brian Patterson welcomed plans to jail violent patients.

'It's only when people realise that they'll face a custodial sentence if they attack doctors that an end will be in sight to this totally unacceptable situation,' he said.

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