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An Open Letter from Dr Davies: Zero Tolerance

To All JHP Patients,

Our staff team are receiving abuse from patients on a regular basis. The number of incidents is increasing, and that is just not OK.

We have always operated the NHS Zero Tolerance policy. Still, sadly, we are seeing more and more cases of abuse directed towards staff trying to help patients.

The Zero Tolerance policy is clear:

Any behaviour, verbal or physical, which causes staff to feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or threatened is totally unacceptable.

As an employer, we have a legal obligation and duty of care to provide a safe workplace for our staff that is free of threats of abuse or violence.

Sadly, abuse of NHS staff is nothing new, as the links below show.

This behaviour, while still thankfully in the minority, is becoming more widespread and more severe.

Even while writing this, there’s news of a patient trying to set fire to a GP practice in Yorkshire.

This year at JHP, we have seen a significant increase in abusive and aggressive behaviour. I am writing this letter, which we will share with all patients at the practice, to shine a light on the issue because it cannot continue.

What is happening

Our Reception team face the brunt of this aggressive and abusive behaviour. The team are often the first point of contact for patients, and their role is vital to getting you the best help as soon as possible.
When they ask questions, they can use their knowledge and experience to help you.

When they offer a suggestion – an appointment with us, a referral elsewhere or signposting to another service – they are the best options. If there were options that were better, easier, quicker or closer, then the team would suggest them.

Be in no doubt that our priority as a practice team is getting you to the right person to help you first time.

Context

You don’t need me to tell you that the NHS is under pressure and there are knock-on effects.

There may be legitimate reasons why you are dissatisfied with the options available or the time it might take to get a resolution.

But none of this is the fault of the person you speak to on the phone or who greets you at the reception desk.

Impact

This brings me to another point I want to make – the impact that abusive, threatening behaviour has on our team.

It creates stress, anxiety and distress that affects your physical and mental health. It leads to burnout and people becoming too unwell to work.

A survey in July this year showed that nearly three-quarters of staff had considered quitting the NHS at some point in the last couple of years. More people leaving the health service, which already has over 100,000 unfilled roles, will worsen your experience.

Then, there is the impact on the personal lives of people taking the abuse.

So many people work in the NHS because they want to do their best to help people.

At times when they can’t – through no fault of their own – or are abused for trying, it’s not a feeling you can leave behind when you go home.

What I’m Asking

I want to assure you that we are here to help, and your needs are our number 1 priority.

But I also must insist that patients treat all of our team with respect and dignity.

As I’ve said, we are acutely aware of the challenges the NHS faces, and it is understandable for patients to be frustrated. But it is not OK for that frustration to turn into abusive or threatening behaviour.

Thank you,

Dr Ben Davies, GP Partner.