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Violence in primary care: a growing problem?

02 August 2021
4 min read
Volume 32 · Issue 8


Violence towards health professionals is on the rise. George Winter looks at this growing problem and what can be done to stop it

Gulati et al (2021) cite evidence that between 2013 and 2014, there were 68 683 assaults reported against NHS staff in England, of which 25% involved primary care staff. In 2017, the Royal College of Nursing undertook a survey of its membership, reporting that ‘28% of all nursing respondents working in the NHS stated they had experienced physical abuse in the previous 12 months'; and in primary and community care 68.1% and 15.9% of respondents experienced verbal abuse and physical abuse, respectively (Royal College of Nursing, 2018).

Professor Gautam Gulati is a consultant forensic psychiatrist and Adjunct Associate Clinical Professor at the University of Limerick. ‘The following violent scenario,’ Prof Gulati told Practice Nursing, ‘occurred in primary care: a GP registrar at a busy inner-city practice saw Mr A – a young man with a history of substance misuse – recently released from prison. Mr A sought a prescription of diazepam, but the registrar explained that he saw no justifiable clinical indication and advised alternative treatments. Mr A became angry, seized a chair, and threatened to throw it at the registrar, who raised the alarm and was joined by an experienced practice nurse. Together, they used de-escalation strategies and eventually, Mr A was escorted from the practice. Nobody was injured but several practice staff were visibly shaken. An incident debrief revealed that Mr A had a history of violence against healthcare professionals and whilst this was flagged on his records, the computerised record system was not functioning that day due to a cyber-attack.’

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