I’m a GP and abuse from patients now occurs daily – claps on the doorstep have turned to slaps in the face

Every day, I am expected to turn a blind eye to critical remarks and acts of incivility and aggression, to just pull up my socks and carry on like nothing has happened

Farah Jameel
Saturday 11 September 2021 13:02
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GPs facing torrent of abuse and violence as patient frustration boils over

My name is Dr Farah Jameel and I work as a GP in north London. I have a 22-month-old toddler that I look after. I juggle being a doctor with the everyday challenges of being a wife and mum, caring for my extended family and managing the daily trials and tribulations of life. This is no special story, it’s the everyday life of an everyday ordinary general practitioner – one who is spinning many, many plates.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, my colleagues in surgeries around the country and I have worked endlessly, sacrificing numerous evenings, nights and weekends to serve our most vulnerable and our communities, supporting them through what has been a horrendous time.

The pace and pressure we have been working under continues to increase and has come at significant personal costs to healthcare professionals all around the country. It has impacted the way everyone is able to access GP services. We appreciate the frustration this has caused many people, and we are doing our best to treat everyone with the care they need, in the way they need. We have continued to see people face to face when safe and necessary, as well as others on the phone or online where this is appropriate.

Meanwhile, government failures continue to have a serious impact, with many of the pieces being picked up – and explained by – hardworking GPs (see most recently the chaos caused by blood bottle shortages and delays to flu vaccine deliveries).

The very last thing we need right now is abuse. A recent survey from the BMA found that half of GPs who responded had experienced verbal abuse in the last month. Two-thirds said they had seen other staff abused and the same proportion said these incidents were more common than they were a year ago.

This week, once again, I was shouted at, humiliated and treated with disrespect for trying to do my best. This is a daily occurrence now, and I am somehow expected to pull up my socks and carry on like nothing happened. Every day, I am expected to turn a blind eye to critical remarks, acts of incivility and aggression.

As the BMA’s survey findings show, mine isn’t a lone story. Every day all over the country, my colleagues are being ground down. A sustained anti-GP campaign by certain parts of the media is unwarranted and simply fuels patient aggression and unhappiness. Claps on the doorstep have turned to slaps in the face – sometimes literally.

Doctors and their colleagues deserve better. We all deserve to be treated with kindness, empathy and respect – qualities we endeavour to reciprocate with patients.

We understand people’s anger and frustration. The last 18 months have been difficult for everyone. But please, direct this ire at your MPs and the government, not at your local practice. Support your surgery, so we can be there to support you.

Dr Farah Jameel is a GP in north London and a member of the BMA GP committee’s executive team

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