A GP has reported a patient threatened to kill themselves if they weren’t bumped up the list for their first jab.
The startling claim features in the findings from a survey by the Medical Protection Society (MPS) which found three in four GPs and other practice staff involved with the Covid vaccination programme have experienced verbal abuse from patients.
The survey shows that over half (52%) of respondents have received threats of physical abuse, with some reporting that notes written and posted through the door or into a prescription box left staff concerned for their safety.
A similar number (53%) said the surgery or vaccination centre had been defaced by anti-vaccination material, such as graffiti or posters, or signage had been pulled down.
A fire alarm was also set off maliciously at one vaccination centre.
And most of those surveyed (60%) say that abuse and complaints relating to the Covid vaccination programme have affected on their own, or their team’s, mental wellbeing, with a further 71% saying the increased workload resulting from the programme has affected wellbeing.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Pallavi Bradshaw, medicolegal lead, risk prevention at MPS, said: “A range of dedicated healthcare workers and volunteers have played a part in making what is the biggest inoculation programme the country has seen, a huge success. Many have found it rewarding, and the majority of patients have been positive and grateful.
“GP surgeries have however clearly borne the brunt of those with frustrations, and it is shocking and appalling that our frontline workers have been facing this sort of abuse. When this is set against the extreme pressure primary care has faced since the start of the pandemic, it is unsurprising that the mental wellbeing of GPs and other practice staff is suffering.
“In the survey, GPs, nurses and practice managers alike said they had encountered daily abuse in the form of shouting, swearing or emotional manipulation. This has mainly stemmed from dissatisfaction about not being prioritised above others, wanting a particular vaccine, the safety of the vaccines, and vaccination site locations.”
Bradshaw adds the additional workload as a result of the vaccination programme has also taken its toll on the mental wellbeing of GPs and practice staff against a backdrop of already stretched resources and burnout.
“GPs are mentally and physically exhausted with the risk of disillusionment and burnout higher than ever. Wellbeing support must be provided to all GP surgery staff who are feeling overwhelmed and demoralised, and a zero-tolerance policy to abuse must be enforced across the NHS so healthcare workers feel their safety is a priority.”