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One in 200 GPs attacked in 2010

Doctors report verbal attacks and threats from patients, some with weapons being involved

ATTACKS on doctors soared by 80 per cent in 2010, with one in 200 doctors reporting they had faced verbal attacks and threats. Some had even been threatened with a gun or knife.

The Observatoire Pour la Sécurité des Médecins said, however, that this was only a fraction of the real number of attacks, because many doctors did not lodge a complaint. In more than half of the known cases, court action had been or was being taken.

Patients were becoming more demanding and even violent, the doctors’ national body Conseil National de l’Ordre des Médecins (CNOM) said, if “they did not get the medical certificate, arrêt de travail [sick note] or the prescription that they wanted”.

Dr Bernard Le Douarin said the rise in attacks was “without precedent”; more and more people were thinking “only of their rights and not of their duties”, he added.

Threats and verbal attacks had risen from 512 reported incidents in 2009 to 920 in 2010, according to the study carried out with survey company Ipsos. The attacks mainly concerned GPs, with half of the attackers being patients or the person accompanying them.

Actual physical violence, however, had fallen slightly, from 16 per cent of cases to 13 per cent.

For the2010 study, the observatory asked for the first time if weapons had been involved and discovered that five per cent of attacks had involved guns, knives or rocks.

The worst-affected departments are Seine-Saint-Denis, the Nord, Val-d'Oise and Val-de-Marne. In Val-de-Marne, a woman doctor was attacked in a secure hospital ward, even although she had a security guard.

Health minister Xavier Bertrand is looking at what measures can be taken to help doctors, and has said he would support plans for cameras in GP surgeries.

The CNOM has said it expects an announcement soon on what will be done. It is looking to extend the work of the observatory to include all medical professions to get a complete picture; to ensure better contact with medical staff and the police; and to look at installing safe areas in GP surgeries.

Photo: Henri Schmit -

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