January 16, 2008

Indian Doctors In UK Often Face Verbal, Physical Abuse On Duty

Soon after the British Medical Association (BMA) published a report on physical and verbal attacks on doctors in the National Health service (NHS), Indian and Indian-origin doctors admitted that many of their colleagues had been subjected to racial abuse and physical attacks.

BMA research published last week shows that one in three doctors in Britain has been victim of such attacks in clinics. Thousands of Indian doctors and other health professionals work in the NHS, and thousands more apply for jobs in the medical sector here every year.

In the last six months alone, the BMA research reported that there were two horrific cases of violence towards doctors in the Glasgow area. In November, a patient in his consulting room beat up a general practitioner and, in August, another general practitioner was stabbed by a patient in her practice.

In December, Arun Rai, 49, who graduated from Ranchi University, was hospitalised after being assaulted by a patient during an examination in his clinic in Glasgow, prompting other medical staff to carry personal alarm systems at all times.

Speaking for the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPI), Joydeep Grover, an Indian origin who works in the Accidents and Emergency sections in the NHS, told IANS: 'We would support the BMA report on violence in the workplace.

'As it points out, medical personnel have a right to work in an unthreatening and dignified environment. Doctors and nurses often have to work in trying circumstances and have the burden of immense responsibility.

'Violence is not always physical in nature, but is more frequently verbal. There is no clear evidence that ethnic minority doctors are more liable to suffer from such abuse, but certainly racial language is still heard in various circumstances'.

Grover said that occasionally patients demand to be seen by white doctors, and some, especially older ones can be overtly abusive. However, he added that most hospital trusts had very well structured policies against racist behaviour by patients, and if the matter is raised the patients are strictly dealt with.

Grover said: 'In my experience there is usually excellent support from colleagues and team members. When doctors/nurses are hit by patients it may or may not have racial

overtones, but there is no study which suggests that ethnic minority doctors are more prone to physical abuse by patients'.

Around 600 doctors from across Great Britain responded to the BMA survey on their experiences of violence in the workplace in the past year. A third had experienced some form of violence - including threats and verbal abuse - and one in ten had been physically attacked, including being stabbed, kicked, punched, bitten and spat at.

Of these, one in three received minor injuries, and one in 20 was seriously injured. More than half (52 percent) of doctors who suffered violence did not report the incident.

The most frequently stated reason for workplace violence was dissatisfaction with the service, including frustration with waiting times and refusal to prescribe medication. This has doubled as a cause of violence since 2003, when the BMA last conducted the survey.

Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA, said: 'These are worrying figures - both in terms of the potential numbers involved and the fact that so few doctors tend to report violence. We hope that this is not because they feel the problem is not being taken seriously.

'Ministers have repeatedly stated that there should be zero tolerance to violence of any sort in the NHS. We heartily agree. The mechanisms must be there to minimise the likelihood of attacks, to support staff who experience them, and to ensure that anyone who commits an act of violence is dealt with appropriately.'

Other findings from the research include:

--Half of doctors say that violence in the workplace is a problem.

--More than half had witnessed violence against other staff, such as nurses and receptionists.

--Female doctors are more likely to experience violence in the workplace than males (37 percent compared to 27 percent).

--Junior doctors are the most likely to experience violence, followed by GPs.

--Almost two thirds of psychiatrists report that violence in their workplace is a problem, compared with a fifth of surgeons.

--Most doctors have not received any training in dealing with violent patients.

--One in ten doctors has access to a secure facility in which to treat violent patients.

The Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, currently progressing through the parliament, contains proposals to tackle nuisance behaviour on NHS hospital premises. The BMA is seeking an amendment to the bill so that general practitioner premises are also covered.

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