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Do patients bully doctors?

“Bullying” is sometimes defined as “unwarranted treatment” and it can take many forms. There have been numerous discussions about senior doctors bullying juniors, and of other NHS staff bullying doctors.

 It might feel like breaking a taboo, but have you ever felt bullied by a patient?

Can anyone share a story about bullying from a patient they have experienced, witnessed or heard about?  What types of doctors or students might this affect most? What might have made the patient act in that way?

The GMC’s only guidance around this is on page 8 of their “Guide for Patients” (see http://www.gmc-uk.org/guidance/patients.asp), “You should also be polite and show respect to your doctors.” Is this enough? Do junior doctors need more guidance and support in this area?

 You can post anonymously in this section - let us have your thoughts.

57 replies

  • In reply to Community Manager:

    Thanks everyone for contributing. We are taking your comments forward to key stakeholders. We want to do more work on the extent of this problem, noting certain sensitivities around the topic, and we will keep you informed.

    Feel free to continue the debate here.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Yes that no doubt happens, but there is probably a culture which is even more insidious and so deep in health culture it remains a massive, unrecognized inequality issue with far- reaching ramifications for the patient, and even affects the work dedicated highly professional health works who strive to provide best care... Ie. The senario when the patient is dismissed as capable of providing credible input, then victimised, bullied, neglected & poorly managed. Not enough thorough research is dedicated towards the extent of this. There is a frightful culture to deny, ignore and wherever possible blame the patient...and even intentionally falsify records, not to mention irreversibly and unethically damage the patients character/image to try and help create a 'supportive' picture that ALL health care is of high standard and unquestionably sound!
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    There are also plenty of examples of doctors bullying patients and relatives who raise concerns.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I'm not sure if this is still running but I would like to add my experience. I found this while searching for help regarding an incident with a patient who was shouting and out of control directed at me. I am a white English ?middle class nurse practitioner. I am eductated with 2 degrees and numerous post grad qualifications. I am also a yoga teacher and consider myself to be a fairly calm human being. I work in general practice and was about to see a 25yr old female with a suspected uti. The patient had been asked to bring a urine sample to the consultation. briefly she hadn't done one and said she couldn't now so I offered a later appt or sit and wait (usual practice). She went into a complete out of control rant, shouting that no one had ever spoken to her like that ( what?) I was non-plused. shortly she returned barging in on my consultation with a sick child. Refusing to leave the room further shouting abuse and threats to report me etc. In front of the other patient. This woman was in complete melt down. Eventually I managed to leave the room ( she was blocking me with her foot) and I brought the manager to her. The patient was given a later appointment with so one else. The manager said the patient has been asked to put her complaint in writing. It seems to me that there is little or no support for clinicians or nhs staff because it's all about satisfying patients. I get intimidation nearly every day for antibiotics. I've told the manager that I am putting in a counter complaint about the behaviour of the patient. Any help or signposting to resources that I can use to help me deal with the after effects of this verbal abuse are most appreciated
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    In reply to Anonymous:

    damn shame. You knew the score when you trained to work in the medical profession. You need to try being an unpaid carer. working 24 hours a day every day without support or respite.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    In reply to Anonymous:

    Gosh, you sound nice.
    I'll tell you a secret. Doctors are people and some of us ARE carers, as well as doctors. A reply of you've made your bed what do you expect? misses the point completely and could apply to absolutely anyone in any situation.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I experience many examples of aggressive patients or those writing complaints because i kept them waiting 20 mins. How dare i. Or agressive because i couldnt treat their cold or deal with 10 problems in a 10 min slot.
    Since moving to Canada patients are courtous respectful and believe what i say fir example if they dont need antibiotics.
    We are protected here in that were not obliged to register any let alone unlimited numbers of patients and no obligation to fit in extras. Its like sering your accountant. You see him when hes free rather than demsnding an appointment now. We behave like professionals rather thsn oublic servants and are treated as such. If not you wont be seeing that doctor again. Perhaps this is why uk doctors are treated like doormats. They are forced to be at the patients beck and call. At least GPs are by their contract. Maybe Canadians are just nicer and more respectful. One things for certain is in the uk appologies for things not our failt needs to stop. You had to wait becsuse were busy nothing to apologise for. I hward a gp wanting his receptionist to appologise to a patient who missed her appointment because no reminder text was sent even though the patient had not supplied her mobile number. The receptionist thankfully refused and the patient missed the next appointment in spite of a reminder text.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    The i know my rights culture had to end as does all the litigation. In canada you can only sue a doctor for serous things like gross negligence hence its rare. The uk has more legal cases agsinst foctors than the ststes apparently.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    In reply to Anonymous:

    Isn't it time that our regulators and the system in general recognised that there are some really nasty people out there and that many complaints of rudeness are fabricated and are themselves a firm of bullying? As often as not it's when the person doesn't get their own way - arriving late for an appointment and still wanting to be seen, wanting antibiotics, wanting a sick note or an inappropriate referral are all behind a lot of the bullying and later complaints.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    In reply to Anonymous:

    Looks like topic keeps hot despite 2yrs presence - this has a simple reason: verbal, non verbal abuse continues to grow and develops its new forms becasue of the same issue we have here: bloody useless politicians and their out of touch "clinical" experts are trying to defer blame for collapsing system to a front line CONSTANTLY. They spin and lie daily yet able easily to get away with it, they have a pwoerful media behind them and strangely enough many of their cock ups are conviniently omitted or diluted in mass media. I'm not saying medical profession are all white angels here - however level of disillusion and burn out grows in good, decent and carying doctors and nurses is growing expotentially now as there are conditions for it. Politicians and campagniers are urging everyone with chest pain to turn up immediatley and create illusion that on the same day 19 yo with chest pain casued by cocaine use will undergo a string of cardiac testing ending up with angiography and cardiologist coming back to say: we so sorry we have not found a heart attack, please feel proud and happy to continue your drug habit and come back to us anytime. This is of course over coloured exaggeration - however there are many real life sitautions either not far away from it or worse. I'm sure NHS won't collapse by tomorrow but surely something ahs to change here and it will have to be multidimensional approach. Question is, do we have a political elite capable to deliver it ?
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I am white and female. I have on several occasions caused disappointment to my patients by not being a man. Apparently I have a male surname - true I suppose as my brother and father are both male! The most frightening bullying patient I had was back in the good ole days when Viagra had just come out. Friday evening GP Trainee surgery: a man in his 30s or 40s demanding Viagra but with no medical "reason" for him to get it on the NHS. I have worked with all sorts of patients in psychiatry, A&E, General Practice and elsewhere but have never felt so intimidated as I did on my own in that room that evening. The racism also works both ways as for some reason my medical opinion does not really count with some men of other races. I am taught to be understanding that this is cultural and to be kind. That seems to be the best advice: be kind. Anonymous.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    "Zero Tolerance" is an absolute joke. The police don't care and won't act - let alone the courts. A man with no mental illness but a diagnosis of mild Asperger syndrome pulled a knife on me because I couldn't provide the CBT he wanted there & then. I thought I was going to die & leave my children motherless. Police argued +++ for hours before taking it remotely seriously. He went to court & got a conditional discharge - if he'd done it in a shop he'd be in prison. We, as doctors & nurses, don't matter/aren't given the same protection as members of the public