BMA calls for Government action to protect GPs and practice staff after horrific violent attack in Manchester GP surgery

by BMA media team

BMA press release.

Location: England
Published: Saturday 18 September 2021
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Responding to reports1 that a number of staff working in a Manchester GP surgery were injured and had to go to hospital after a violent attack carried out by a patient, BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said:

“We are truly horrified to hear about this awful attack and our thoughts are with the GPs, practice staff, families and patients who have been injured and affected in this dreadful incident.

“While the specific circumstances need to be investigated by the police, this assault, though one of the most extreme, is part of a terrible trend of growing abuse, vitriol and violence that is being directed towards our healthcare workers.

“Abuse of any kind, and particularly physical violence of this nature, cannot and should never be tolerated.  GPs and practice staff should never have to fear going to work and patients should also feel confident that their surgery is a place of safety. The Government and NHS England must act, and fast, before yet more incidents of this severity occur. Being verbally abusive to frontline staff is wrong and unacceptable and physical attacks of this magnitude cannot and should not be allowed to happen again.  

“Those who commit heinous acts such as these must be dealt with by the law and is vital that governments, and every national and local health body does much more to ensure the safety of staff working at practices who are clearly being placed at increased risk by the current anti-GP rhetoric.

Indeed, findings from a recent BMA survey2 found that more than half of GPs and almost a third of hospital doctors have faced recent abuse from patients, or those accompanying them, showing the scale of the abuse we face.

“As I highlighted in my letter3 to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, just a few days ago, we were gravely concerned about the lack of support or public challenge by the Government to the increasing incidents of abuse and misinformation directed towards those working in general practice and his recent comments only added fuel to the fire. It’s appalling if it takes an attack of this level of violence before the Government listens to the profession and takes action. 

“As doctors, caring for patients is why we came into this profession. It is increasingly demoralising and now, seemingly dangerous for us to have to work in conditions where a lack of support, understanding and resources, alongside the demands of the pandemic, place us in an unacceptable position, and at increasing risk.

Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. Manchester Evening News article reporting on attack (17.9.21).
  2. Findings from BMA tracker survey (July 2021) of more than 2,400 doctors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland include:
  • More than a third (37%) of all respondents had experienced verbal abuse first-hand in the most recent month – including 51% of GPs and 30% of hospital doctors;
  • One in five GPs reported being threatened;
  • Equally as worrying was that half of respondents (51%) had witnessed violence or abuse against other staff, which rose to 67% for doctors working in general practice;
  • Two-thirds of GPs (67%) said their experience of abuse, threatening behaviour or violence had got worse in the last year;
  • The most common place for abuse experienced by GPs was in their consulting rooms (53%), while hospital doctors said it was on wards (49%);
  • While respondents reported a number of factors they felt were behind the incidents, 64% (75% GP, 54% hospital) said the perpetrator was dissatisfied with the service or access.
  1. BMA letter to Sajid Javid (14.9.21).