Northern Ireland

Violence against doctors 'rising' in Northern Ireland

GP checking blood pressure

Violence and abuse against doctors is a rising problem in Northern Ireland, a report by the British Medical Association in NI has said.

Half of doctors surveyed had been verbally abused, threatened or assaulted in the past year.

The majority continue to treat patients in the face of the threat of assaults.

Some doctors have installed panic buttons in their surgeries to protect against the threat of violent patients.

Belfast GP Dr Michael McKenna, who has been attacked several times, said that one of the "best tools" in place was the fact that there was a protocol in place to move violent patients to a different GP surgery.

He added that these would have appropriate facilities for treatment.

"This results in less risk to all staff in the surgery, including the receptionists and nurses," he said.

"It would make sense for a similar robust process to be put in place in hospitals."

Dr Paul Darragh, chairman of the BMA's council in NI, who has also been assaulted in the past, said the results of the survey were very worrying.

"The abuse is often random, with no particular motivation behind the physical violence.

"The effect of threats, abuse and assaults impact not only on doctors on the receiving end, but also the wider healthcare team and other patients," he said.

"More needs to be done to both prevent verbal and physical attacks from taking place, and to support staff who have been assaulted while doing their job."

BMA (NI) is calling for patients with a history of violence to be identified, secure facilities to be made available to treat violent patients and a process to be put in place in hospitals so that violent patients can be warned and if necessary removed.