Views And Reviews

Violent patients: police help clarified

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 30 July 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:344
  1. L Beecham

    General practitioners' leaders have criticised press reports that doctors will not be able to rely on help from the police when dealing with violent or potentially violent patients. At the meeting of the General Medical Services Committee last week, one of the committee's negotiators, Dr Brian Goss, clarified the position. A joint GMSC and NHS working party issued guidance to family health services authorities on good practice and local initiatives to combat violence. This states that doctors may decide that because of possible risk to their safety “it will not be appropriate to provide treatment until assistance is available.” Dr Goss emphasised that in the discussions which had led to the advice being drawn up the profession had accepted that the police operated within finite resources and that their attendance was subject to availability of resources. Dr Goss thought that it would be a rare occurrence for a doctor to expect the police to attend immediately. The police had to order their priorities. On the other hand, neither the GMSC, the NHS Executive, nor the General Medical Council expected general practitioners to put themselves in danger. He drew an analogy with a fire. Doctors would not be expected to attend patients until the fire brigade had put out the fire. They would not be in breach of their terms of service. At the end of the day any liability would lie with the patient who behaved violently.

    Dr Goss also clarified the criteria …

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