Letter: Violence against GPs

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The Independent Culture
Sir: We naturally want doctors and others serving the public to be protected against violence. But once again the Department of Health has had discussions only with the doctors' trade union and has not given consumer organisations a chance to contribute before coming up with a draconian policy that on the sole word of a GP, a patient will be banned from normal health care ("Violent patients face ban from GPs' surgeries", 8 December).

We find this particularly worrying since we know of cases where GPs have made unfounded allegations as soon as the patient made a complaint about quality of care - or even intimated that they might do so. A major study of doctors' responses to complaints showed that in half the cases the patient or lay carer was blamed, and doctors attributed the problem to the personality of the complainant. We have seen many allegations on case notes about patients' behaviour which they denied and were sometimes able to disprove.

Studies on psychiatric patients have shown that violent incidents can be provoked by poor management and staff behaviour. Patients in poverty and bad housing, and those with a past history of sexual abuse, sometimes have a low toleration threshold and are often misunderstood. In some families violent language is part of normal everyday conversation but does not necessarily mean a real threat. All these people are at risk under the new policy - from some GPs but not others.

There were many other relevant points we and other groups could have put to Alan Milburn, the Secretary of State for Health, had we been given a chance.


Hon Research Officer

Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services