Tinned tomatoes, eggs and stones thrown at Exeter GP surgery as staff face rise in abuse

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Tinned tomatoes, eggs and stones have been thrown at a GP surgery in Exeter as NHS staff across Devon have reported a rise in the amount of abuse they are receiving.

The incidents happened at the Mount Pleasant Health Centre. Staff say they are part of a number of targeted attacks which have taken place in recent months.

It comes as doctors, nurses and other health professionals have reported increasing levels of abusive language, threatening and aggressive behaviour, and damage to property.

Dr Paul Hynam from Mount Pleasant Health Centre in Exeter said: "I know most people would not want to cause upset to our reception staff but sadly the rudeness, sarcasm and aggression of a significant minority is having a huge impact on staff wellbeing. 

“In recent months we’ve had tomatoes, eggs and stones thrown at our windows and a patient threatening to come and infect our staff with Covid because they were unable to do what he asked.”

Health bosses are urging people have more patience towards NHS staff amid fears the level of abuse is leading to some quitting the profession.

Devon's Local Medical Committee says 12 GPs quit their jobs this summer and abuse from patients was cited as one of the reasons for them deciding to leave.

Staff in Devon’s hospitals have also reported abusive behaviour from patients. This has included anger over changes to visiting restrictions, the requirement to wear a face mask and being asked for only one person to accompany a family member in A&E.

Figures from April to June show 453 recorded incidents of abuse of staff in Devon’s hospitals, but it is thought there are many more unreported cases.

Dr Alex Degan, NHS Devon’s Primary Care Medical Director, said: “Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure people get the care that they need and are vaccinated as soon as possible.  

“The pandemic has made it harder to see as many people face to face and increased the waits people have for planned procedures. We know that people are anxious, frustrated and may be in pain and we thank patients and their families for not venting those emotions on the people who are working so hard to help them.

“Abuse and harassment of staff can increase stress related staff sickness and lead to people leaving their jobs, we do not tolerate intentionally abusive behaviour in order to protect the health and wellbeing of our staff.”