Sidmouth: Rise in abusive behaviour leaving NHS staff traumatised, Devon health bosses say

  Posted: 30.11.21 at 11:28 by Will Goddard

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Devon health bosses have said that a rise in abuse towards healthcare workers has left staff 'in tears and deeply traumatised'.

While most patients are reportedly polite towards staff, there have been reports of rising levels of swearing and abusive language, threatening and aggressive behaviour, and damage to property - including tomatoes, eggs and stones thrown at the windows of a GP practice.

In a six-week period this summer, 12 Devon GP practice managers left their jobs citing abuse from patients as one of their deciding factors.

Health bosses have also warned that people who abuse or harass staff may be asked to leave and patients may be deregistered by their GP.

Exeter GP Dr Paul Hynam, Medical Secretary for Devon Local Medical Committee (LMC), said: “I know most people would not want to cause upset to our reception staff but sadly the rudeness, sarcasm and aggression of a significant minority is having a huge impact on staff wellbeing.

“In recent months we’ve had tomatoes, eggs and stones thrown at our windows and a patient threatening to come and infect our staff with Covid because they were unable to do what he asked.”

In hospitals, too, staff are reporting an increase in abusive behaviour from patients and their family members, such as anger over changes to visiting restrictions, the requirement to wear a face mask or covering unless they are medically exempt, having to wait for treatment and being asked to attend emergency departments alone to allow social distancing.

Dr Alex Degan, NHS Devon’s Primary Care Medical Director, said: “The pandemic has made it harder to see as many people face to face and increased the waits people have for planned procedures.

"We know that people are anxious, frustrated and may be in pain and we thank patients and their families for not venting those emotions on the people who are working so hard to help them.

“Abuse and harassment of staff can increase stress-related staff sickness and lead to people leaving their jobs, we do not tolerate intentionally abusive behaviour in order to protect the health and wellbeing of our staff.”

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