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GP staff abuse: Receptionists ‘bear brunt’ of patient aggression


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Abuse towards GP staff has escalated to threats, throwing furniture and calling workers Nazi’s, one surgery has said.

Swansea Bay University Health Board said receptionists were “bearing the brunt of some unacceptable behaviour” following high demands for GP services.

Clare Boland, a Neath Port Talbot practice manager, said the daily abuse was starting to have an impact on the physical and mental health of staff.

She has called for kindness and for the public not to resort to aggression.

Ms Boland, who has worked as practice manager for Fairfield Surgery in Port Talbot for the past 10 years, said patient abuse had “definitely got worse”.

“I have been screamed at by a patient, who also called me a Nazi,” she said.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales Breakfast with Claire Summers, she said it was happening face-to-face, over the phone and in writing.

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“We’ve had people throw things at our receptionists, use foul language, screaming and shouting, throwing and damaging furniture, making threats, ‘I know where you live’, that sort of thing.

“A lot of us feel very stressed and maybe less equipped to deal with this kind of abuse.”

She said dissatisfied patients should go through correct channels rather than resort to threats or posting on social media.

Image caption,Swansea Bay University Health Board said it had zero tolerance to abuse towards practice staff

‘You go home drained’

GP receptionist Nicky Cooper, who has worked at Fairfield Surgery for 22 years, said the abuse was affecting her own and her colleague’s wellbeing.

“We get sworn at. I think people think we are not doing our best to help them and making the rules up rather than doing what the doctors have asked us to do.

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“We are answering the phones as quickly as we can but, with so many calls coming in, their attitude… means you have to start by trying to calm them down rather than start to deal with the problem they have got.”

She added that it meant calls were taking longer as receptionists were having to “talk people around and apologise all the time”.

“People seem to think the role of a receptionist is only answering phones and booking appointments, it’s far from that. There’s so much more we have to do.

“You go home drained,” she added.

Dr Anjula Mehta, Swansea Bay’s group medical director for primary care, said the health board had “zero tolerance to abuse towards practice staff”.

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“If you are struggling to get hold of your practice team, please raise this with the practice manager.

“There are huge pressures across healthcare currently, please be kind to our staff, they are trying their best to help you,” she added.

She said the health board would support practices in taking necessary action against any person who becomes verbally or physically abusive towards staff.

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