Campaign shows the consequences of abuse in Primary Care

Today marks the launch of a campaign to help tackle a rise in abusive behaviour towards healthcare workers in primary care across the Humber area.

Researching the issue has been a real eye-opener and shocking that people working their hardest in the most challenging of times are being made to feel unappreciated and questioning the future of their career because of unkindness from others.

eskimosoup has developed the campaign with Humberside Group of Local Medical Committees Ltd (Humberside LMC) thanks to the support of the Clinical Commissioning Groups across the Humber area, and a range of partners who are standing together to say that abuse of primary care workers in any role of general practice, community pharmacy, dental, and optometry will not be tolerated.

Research shows that increased pressures on primary services paired with modified ways of working made necessary due to COVID-19 have led to increased demand in services. Data published by NHS Digital shows a 3.5m increase in the number of general practice appointments provided during June this year compared to June 2019 (26.7m compared to 23.2m), with an additional 4m COVID vaccination appointments delivered on top of that.

Despite this evidence, research carried out with practices in the Humber area in July found that many patients perceive that primary care has been “almost closed” or working at reduced capacity over the past 18 months. Whilst primary care staff are working longer hours, some patients say that they can’t get through to practices to make appointments. This is frustrating for patients and in some cases unfortunately results in abusive behaviour towards practice staff members.

Working with Humberside LMCs constituents we uncovered several examples of how abusive patient behaviour had negatively impacted upon staff morale and directly led to decreased patient care due to time spent on handling persistent callers and aggression in practice, on the telephone and online.

Repeat instances of aggression, prejudice, threats, and offensive language, has led many professionals to feel dread, fear, disrespected, and questioning whether they wish to remain working in the profession.

As Dr Zoe Norris, Humberside LMCs Medical Director and local GP says:

“We understand that patients have frustrations and fears around their own health though it doesn’t help anyone if they are abusive. It affects everyone, though it is particularly unfair that frontline workers who are doing their absolute best take the brunt of this. We’re all humans and need to do our bit to be reasonable and kind.”

“Pressures on primary care to meet demands are not new though are made more challenging by the pandemic. This campaign asks everyone to think about how their behaviour can impact others and understand that if you cross the line, you can and will be refused treatment.”

Tackling abuse is the first of a three-phase public awareness campaign around improving experiences for patients and staff.

We’re grateful for the opportunity to support on such an important and meaningful campaign.

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