The poster and leaflet campaign pack is being sent to all GP practices across Scotland this week ‘as they gear up for the winter period — usually one of the worst times for incidents of physical and verbal abuse in surgeries’, says the Scottish Executive.
Health minister Andy Kerr said: ‘GP receptionists rank high on the list of those somehow seen as acceptable targets.
‘These new “crime scene” materials bring home the seriousness of the crimes and urge staff to report all incidents.’
GPC Scotland chairman Dr Dean Marshall welcomed the campaign and said: ‘More than one third of doctors report that they have experienced some form of violence in the workplace in the last year.
‘This is unacceptable. It is important that patients and their relatives are aware that their actions are punishable by law.’
Estimated figures from 2005 recorded 23,500 violent incidents against healthcare workers in Scotland, but a Scottish Executive spokeswoman said it did not keep official figures.
The Scottish Executive’s campaign highlights the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act, which provides protection for all emergency workers, but not to standard work done in GP surgeries.
Under the Act, penalties are available for up to nine months imprisonment and a fine of £5,000 for anyone ‘assaulting healthcare workers in a hospital setting or those doing emergency work in the community’.
The campaign comes a fortnight after a BMA survey found that 43 per cent of GPs in Northern Ireland had reported a violent incident in their practice in the last 12 months.