Doctors are being encouraged to consider chaperones when they attend after-hours house calls to reduce the risk of aggression and violence.
A Griffith University study has found that around half of all doctors who provide after-hours house calls have experienced aggression in the past 12 months.
The study surveyed 300 doctors employed by one of the country’s largest house call service providers and found that 47% of doctors had experienced abuse, threats or harassment.
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Verbal abuse is the most common experience, appearing in 48% of cases, followed by threats (27%) and vexatious complaints (13%).
Reports of property damage, physical violence, sexual harassment and stalking were noted as well.
The study found that while patients themselves are typically the main aggressors, family and friends can also become aggressive and doctors can combat this by engaging more with those present.
Griffith academic and Gold Coast GP Dr Chris Ifediora also suggests doctors should consider chaperones to reduce apprehension and the risks of aggression.
“Previous studies have shown that engaging chaperones is one of a number of safety measures that doctors in after-hours home visits can adopt.
“However not all doctors will want to do this, for a diverse range of reasons which might include concerns with the cost of hiring them or privacy issues as some doctors like to maintain a high level of confidentiality in their workplace,” he said.
Dr Ifediora also says the study found that doctors with postgraduate fellowships were significantly less likely to experience aggression.
“This probably reflects the greater training that these doctors have compared with non-fellows so I would also recommend some form of training in this regard.
“Overall, over 90% of doctors said they were concerned about aggression and 75% said they were apprehensive about it,” he said.