Patient abuse survey highlights a ‘deeply disturbing’ trend in general practice, says BMA

by BMA media office

Press release from the BMA

Location: UK
Last reviewed: 22 April 2022

Responding to a UK-wide survey from the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland, which found that three out of four family doctors report facing increased patient abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Kieran Sharrock, deputy chair of GPC England, said: 
“The pandemic has placed almost incomprehensible stress on the NHS, its staff and the general public and has caused pain and distress beyond anything we could have imagined. However, that still doesn’t mean doctors, in fact anyone, should have to go to work fearing verbal abuse or physical violence, especially those who dedicate their working lives to looking after others. 
“For doctors to be the brunt of violence and abuse in this way is wholly unacceptable; it’s no surprise that GPs feel as undervalued as they do and are considering leaving the profession, as this report and multiple BMA surveys have shown. 
“This deeply disturbing trend must be addressed. The Government must not only be honest with the public about what general practice can achieve right now - given the chronic workforce shortages, backlog, and lack of resource - but also actually support the profession so that we can provide the kind of care we want to.  
“While some patients may be violent towards staff due to underlying mental health conditions – and it’s important they then get access to the care they need – in the main, patients and public must understand that abusing healthcare workers will not be tolerated. The BMA therefore continues to lobby the Government for increasing the maximum penalty for common assault against NHS staff and ensuring that everyone, regardless of where they work in our health service, feels safe.”


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.