Health bosses are supporting GPs and pharmacists in Doncaster to combat aggressive and abusive behaviour from patients and members of the public under a new zero tolerance approach.
As reported incidences have increased in recent months, frontline NHS primary care workers across the borough are being offered support and advice from the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) on reporting such behaviour, and guidance on a process for robustly dealing with it.
Dr David Crichton, a local GP and Chair of the CCG said: “Unfortunately we’ve been having to work in an increasingly difficult environment where demand for health services is at an all-time high. People get frustrated if they can’t get an appointment and that sometimes leads to anger and unacceptable treatment of the very people who are trying to help them.
“Many of our surgeries and pharmacies already operate a zero-tolerance approach towards such behaviour and will ultimately exercise their right to refuse to see or treat people who are persistently aggressive or abusive. Now the CCG is putting its weight behind that approach for everyone in the borough’s primary care network by offering additional support to help boost morale, motivation and the recruitment and retention of our staff.
“It’s dreadful to see the effect that such bad behaviour can have on surgery or pharmacy staff. Receptionists, GPs and chemists are among those who have experienced some awful comments and threats, whether that’s face to face, over the ‘phone or on other platforms like social media. It’s neither warranted nor justified and can sadly result in people leaving their jobs from the stress it’s causing.”
The main aim of the zero-tolerance policy is to demonstrate that such behaviour will not be tolerated amid the ongoing efforts, by general practices in particular, to increase staff levels and the number of available appointments with additional funding. Measures being taken aim to help alleviate some of the frustrations vented by patients about accessibility to their local surgery.
The CCG recently published an open letter to the residents of Doncaster explaining the steps being taken to improve access, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and social restrictions which meant surgeries had to increase the use of video and telephone consultations with patients.
Dr Crichton added: “The vast majority of the public are very respectful and supportive of our staff and we thank them for that. Our relationships with our patients and the public are based on mutual respect and trust and any decision to remove someone from a practice list would be an exceptional and rare event and only taken as a last resort.
“However, our colleagues should never be fearful or apprehensive about coming to work which is why we’re sending out a clear message that we will not tolerate any form of violent or aggressive behaviour.”