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Health chief condemns verbal abuse of staff at Thurso medical practice

By Gordon Calder

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A NORTH health boss has condemned the verbal abuse of staff at a medical practice in Thurso and said such behaviour is "absolutely unacceptable."

Pam Dudek, the chief executive of NHS Highland, was "really sad" to learn staff at the Riverbank Medical Practice in Janet Street, Thurso have been subject to "such poor behaviour" and vowed to provide support for them.

Pam Dudek said verbal abuse of staff is "absolutely unacceptable." Picture: Gary Anthony.
Pam Dudek said verbal abuse of staff is "absolutely unacceptable." Picture: Gary Anthony.

She said: "The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has meant we have had to change the way we deliver services across all sectors of health and social care. We understand this has caused concern and frustration for our patients. However, to hear that some of our staff have been subjected to verbal abuse is extremely upsetting and there can be no excuse for such behaviour. It is absolutely unacceptable."

Mrs Dudek added: "Staff across Highland, Argyll and Bute have worked tirelessly throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure the people we serve receive the best possible care whenever it is needed. We are thankful that this behaviour does not happen often but NHS Highland has a zero-tolerance approach to verbal and physical abuse directed toward our staff."

She spoke out after the problem came to light after the practice posted what was happening on social media.

The message said: "We know times are stressful but, unfortunately, this week our Clinical Support Team have been subjected to aggressive verbal abuse and rude behaviour from patients in the practice and they find it very upsetting.

"Riverbank Practice and NHS Highland have a zero tolerance policy against any kind of abuse or aggressive behaviour towards their staff and anyone violating this policy will receive a warning letter from the practice. Any repeat abuse towards any of our staff may lead to a patient being removed from the practice list."

As reported last week, Bill Fernie, the chairman of the Caithness Heath Action Team, described the verbal abuse of the staff as "absolutely disgraceful."

He acknowledged people are under "a lot of stress" after 18 months of the coronavirus but said such behaviour is "unacceptable".

Mr Fernie said: "It seems to have got worse and appears to be happening not just in medical premises but in other places where staff come into contact with the public. Staff are doing their best to do their job and help people and should not be subject to verbal or any other abuse."

The Riverview Medical Practice in Wick experienced similar problems last year.

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