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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 January 2006, 02:15 GMT
British GPs 'suffer more abuse'
A woman sees her GP
Security guards are employed in some GPs' surgeries
GPs experience higher levels of abuse than many of their European counterparts, a survey of 1,000 doctors in five countries suggests.

Some 94% of 200 UK GPs asked said they had been verbally abused, while a third told the survey for GP magazine they had been physically attacked.

The 800 GPs questioned in France, Germany, Spain and Italy reported an average verbal abuse rate of 82%.

Italy and Spain had the lowest rates of violence, at 15% and 20% respectively.

GP physical abuse
UK - 32%
France - 32%
Germant - 31%
Spain - 20%
Italy - 15%

In France, 32% of GPs surveyed reported that they had been victims of physical attacks. In Germany it was 31%.

In the UK 81% said they had been verbally abused more than once, and compared with 70% in Spain, 64% in France, 61% in Germany and 38% in Italy.

A French doctor now working in Lincolnshire, Dr Jean-Pierre Cantin, told GP magazine he believed patient hostility may be linked to drug abuse.

"The hostility I have seen in both France and England has been mostly from people using drugs.

"This is not universal - it is quite a specific group."

There's something about assaulting people verbally or physically that is British
Dr Laurence Buckman
BMA GPs' Committee

Laurence Buckman, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's GPs' committee, said he believed excessive alcohol intake was more to blame.

"I've been verbally abused plenty of times and physically abused two times."

Both times he was physically abused the perpetrator was drunk, he told the BBC.

But the GP from Finchley, north London, also blamed what he saw as a culture of attacking authority in the UK.

"There's a sense that it's alright to beat up a teacher, it's OK to beat up a policemen who hasn't done anything to you.

"There's something about assaulting people verbally or physically that is British."

'Completely unacceptable'

He said the government had taken many steps to try to reduce the number of assaults on NHS staff, including GPs.

He added that some GPs practices around the country were employing security guards to protect staff.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said violence against any NHS staff was "completely unacceptable".

"The huge increase in prosecutions demonstrates that we will take tough action against anyone who attacks them.

GP verbal abuse
UK - 94%
Spain - 88%
Germany - 85%
France - 81%
Italy - 75%

"Since the NHS Security Management Service took over the security remit there has been a 15-fold increase in the number of people prosecuted for attacking NHS staff.

"This shows that offenders can no longer regard NHS staff as soft targets, and those who do abuse staff face punishment."

However, the team suggested there was still considerable work to do on the issue.

Minister rages over NHS attacks
19 Dec 05 |  Scotland
NHS staff 'facing abuse threat'
22 Mar 05 |  Health

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