UNACCEPTABLE ACTIONS POLICY

We believe that patients have a right to be heard, understood and respected. We work hard to be open and accessible to everyone. Occasionally, the behaviour or actions of individuals using our Practice make it very difficult for us to deal with their issues or complaints. In a small number of cases, the actions of individuals become unacceptable because they involve abuse of our staff or our process. When this happens we have to take action to protect our staff, and must also consider the impact of the individuals’ behaviour on our ability to do our work and provide a service to others. This Policy explains how we will approach these situations.

Section 1 – What actions does the Practice consider to be unacceptable?

People may act out of character in times of trouble or distress. There may have been upsetting or distressing circumstances leading up to us being made aware of an issue or complaint. We do not view behaviour as unacceptable just because a patient is forceful or determined. We accept that being persistent may sometimes be a positive advantage when pursuing an issue or complaint. However, we do consider actions that result in unreasonable demands on our Practice or unreasonable behaviour towards Practice staff to be unacceptable. It is these actions that we aim to manage under this Policy.

Section 2 – Aggressive or abusive behaviour

We understand that patients may be angry about the issues they have raised with the Practice. If that anger escalates into aggression towards Practice staff, we consider that unacceptable. Any violence or abuse towards staff will not be accepted. Violence is not restricted to acts of aggression that may result in physical harm. It also includes behaviour or language (whether verbal or written) that may cause staff to feel offended, afraid, threatened or abused. We will judge each situation individually, and appreciate individuals who come to us may be upset.

The language which is designed to insult or degrade is derogatory, racist, sexist, transphobic, or homophobic or which makes serious allegations that individuals have committed criminal, corrupt, perverse or unprofessional conduct of any kind, without any evidence, is unacceptable.

We may decide that comments aimed not at us, but at third parties, are unacceptable because of the effect that listening or reading them may have on our staff.

Section 3 – Unreasonable demands

A demand becomes unacceptable when it starts to (or when complying with the demand would) impact substantially on the work of the Practice. Examples of actions grouped under this heading include:

  • Repeatedly demanding responses within an unreasonable timescale
  • Repeatedly requesting early supplies of medication
  • Repeatedly requesting further supplies of stolen medication, without the required Police Incident number
  • Repeatedly ordering prescriptions outside the set timeframe
  • Insisting on seeing or speaking to a particular member of staff when that is not possible
  • Repeatedly changing the substance of an issue or complaint or raising unrelated concerns
  • Repeatedly insisting on a course of medical treatment for which there is no clinical evidence
  • Not ensuring that a review appointment is in place, prior to ongoing medication finishing
  • An example of such impact would be that the demand takes up an excessive amount of staff time and in so doing disadvantages other patients

Section 4 – Unreasonable levels of contact

Sometimes the volume and duration of contact made to our Practice by an individual causes problems. This can occur over a short period, for example, a number of calls in one day or one hour. It may occur over the lifespan of an issue when a patient repeatedly makes long telephone calls to us or inundates us with letters or copies of information that have been sent already or that are irrelevant to the issue. We consider that the level of contact has become unacceptable when the amount of time spent talking to a patient on the telephone or responding to, reviewing and filing emails or written correspondence impacts on our ability to deal with that issue, or with other Patients’ needs.

Section 5 – Unreasonable refusal to co-operate

When we are looking at an issue or complaint, we will ask the patient to work with us. This can include agreeing with us on the issues or complaint we will look at; providing us with further information, evidence or comments on request; or helping us by summarising their concerns or completing a form for us.

Sometimes, a patient repeatedly refuses to cooperate and this makes it difficult for us to proceed. We will always seek to assist someone if they have a specific, genuine difficulty complying with a request. However, we consider it is unreasonable to bring an issue to us and then not respond to reasonable requests.

Section 6 – Unreasonable use of the complaints process

Individuals with complaints about the Practice have the right to pursue their concerns through a range of means. They also have the right to complain more than once about the Practice, if subsequent incidents occur. This contact becomes unreasonable when the effect of the repeated complaints is to harass or to prevent us from pursuing a legitimate aim or implementing a legitimate decision. We consider access to a complaints system to be important and it will only be in exceptional circumstances that we would consider such repeated use is unacceptable – but we reserve the right to do so in such cases.

Section 7 – Examples of how we manage aggressive or abusive behaviour

  • The threat or use of physical violence, verbal abuse or harassment towards the Practice staff is likely to result in a warning from the Senior Management Team. We may report incidents to the Police – this will always be the case if physical violence is used or threatened.
  • Practice staff will end telephone calls if they consider the caller aggressive, abusive or offensive. Practice staff have the right to make this decision, to tell the caller that their behaviour is unacceptable and to end the call if the behaviour persists.
  • We will not respond to correspondence (in any format) that contains statements that are abusive to staff or contain allegations that lack substantive evidence. Where we can, we will return the correspondence. We will explain why and say that we consider the language used to be offensive, unnecessary and unhelpful and ask the sender to stop using such language. We will state that we will not respond to their correspondence if the action or behaviour continues and may consider issuing a warning to the Patient.

Section 8 – Examples of how we deal with other categories of unreasonable behaviour

We have to take action when unreasonable behaviour impairs the functioning of our Practice. We aim to do this in a way that allows a Patient to progress through our process. We will try to ensure that any action we take is the minimum required to solve the problem, taking into account relevant personal circumstances including the seriousness of the issue(s) or complaint and the needs of the individual.

Section 9 – Other actions we may take

Where a patient repeatedly phones, visits the Practice, raises repeated issues, or sends large numbers of documents where their relevance isn’t clear, we may decide to:

  • limit contact to telephone calls from the patient at set times on set days, about the issues raised
  • restrict contact to a nominated member of the Practice staff who will deal with future calls or correspondence from the patient about their issues
  • see the patient by appointment only
  • restrict contact from the patient to writing only regarding the issues raised
  • return any documents to the patient or, in extreme cases, advise the patient that further irrelevant documents will be destroyed
  • take any other action that we consider appropriate

Where we consider continued correspondence on a wide range of issues to be excessive, we may tell the patient that only a certain number of issues will be considered in a given period and ask them to limit or focus their requests accordingly. In exceptional cases, we reserve the right to refuse to consider an issue, or future issues or complaints from an individual. We will take into account the impact on the individual and also whether there would be a broader public interest in considering the issue or complaint further. We will always tell the patient what action we are taking and why.

Section 10 – The process we follow to make decisions about unreasonable behaviour

  • Any member of the Practice staff who directly experiences aggressive or abusive behaviour from a Patient has the authority to deal immediately with that behaviour in a manner they consider appropriate to the situation and in line with this Policy
  • Except such immediate decisions taken at the time of an incident, decisions to issue a warning or remove patients from our Practice List are only taken after careful consideration of the situation by the Senior Management/Partnership
  • Wherever possible, we will give a patient the opportunity to change their behaviour or actions before a decision is taken

Section 11 – How we let people know we have made this decision

When a Practice employee makes an immediate decision in response to offensive, aggressive or abusive behaviour, the patient is advised at the time of the incident. When a decision has been made by Senior Management, a patient will always be given the reason in writing as to why a decision has been made to issue a warning (including the duration and terms of the warning) or remove them from the Practice list. This ensures that the patient has a record of the decision.

Section 12 – How we record and review a decision to issue a warning

We record all incidents of unacceptable actions by patients. Where it is decided to issue a warning to a patient, an entry noting this is made in the relevant file and on appropriate computer records. Each quarter a report on all restrictions will be presented to our Senior Management Team so that they can ensure the policy is being applied appropriately. A decision to issue a warning to a patient as described above may be reconsidered either on request or on review.

Section 13 – The process for appealing a decision

It is important that a decision can be reconsidered. A patient can appeal a decision about the issuance of a warning or removal from the Practice list. If they do this, we will only consider arguments that relate to the warning or removal, and not to either the issue or complaint made to us, or to our decision to close a complaint.

An appeal could include, for example, a patient saying that: their actions were wrongly identified as unacceptable; the warning was disproportionate; or that it will adversely impact on the individual because of personal circumstances.

The Practice Manager or a GP Partner who was not involved in the original decision will consider the appeal. They have the discretion to quash or vary the warning as they think best. They will make their decision based on the evidence available to them. They must advise the patient in writing that either the warning or removal still applies or a different course of action has been agreed. We may review the warning periodically or on further request after a period of time has passed. Each case is different.

This policy is subject to review

Safeguarding Children

Our Primary Care Team is committed to safeguarding children. The safety and welfare of children who come into contact with our services either directly or indirectly is paramount, and all staff have a responsibility to ensure that Best Practice is followed, including compliance with statutory requirements.

We are committed to a Best Practice which safeguards children and young people irrespective of their background, and which recognises that a child may be abused regardless of their age, gender, religious beliefs, racial origin or ethnic identity, culture, class, disability or sexual orientation.

The Primary Care Team are committed to working within agreed policies and procedures and in partnership with other agencies, to ensure that the risks of harm to a child or young person are minimised. This work may include direct and indirect contact with children, access to patient’s details and communication via email or text message/telephone.

Our Surgery is supported by the NWL ICB who have designated Nurses and Doctors in post who offer professional expertise and advice regarding safeguarding children.

Named GP Policy

As part of the NHS commitment to providing more personalised care, all practices are required to provide all their Patients with a named GP who will have overall responsibility for the care and support that our surgery provides.

  • This will not impact your experience at the practice, the provision of appointments, your treatment, or which GP you can see
  • You may wonder why your allocated GP is not necessarily the one you see most regularly. Please be assured that you can still access all of our medical team in exactly the same way as before
  • Having a named GP does not guarantee you will always be seen by that GP
  • Please note that the GP responsible for your care may be subject to change and reallocation in the future

You do not need to take any further action, but if you have any questions or wish to know your named GP, please speak to a member of the reception team.

What does ‘accountable’ mean?

This is largely a role of oversight, with the requirements being introduced to reassure patients that they have one GP within the practice who is responsible for ensuring that this work is carried out on their behalf.

What are the named GP’s responsibilities to 75s and over?

This is unchanged from 2014-2015; for patients aged 75 and over the named accountable GP is responsible for:

  • working with relevant associated health and social care professionals to deliver a multidisciplinary care package that meets the needs of the patient
  • ensuring that these patients have access to a health check as set out in section 7.9 of the GMS Contract Regulations.

Does the requirement mean 24-hour responsibility for patients? No. The named GP will not:

  • take on vicarious responsibility for the work of other doctors or health professional
  • take on 24-hour responsibility for the patient, or have to change their working hours. The requirement does not imply personal availability for GPs throughout the working week
  • be the only GP or clinician who will provide care to that patient

Can patients choose their own named GP

In the first instance, patients should simply be allocated a named GP. However, if a patient requests a particular GP, reasonable efforts should be made to accommodate their preference, recognising that there are occasions when the practice may not feel the patient’s preference is suitable.

Do patients have to see the named GP  when they book an appointment with the practice?

No. Patients can and should feel free to choose to see any GP or nurse in the practice in line with current arrangements. However, some practices may see this change as a way to encourage and promote a greater degree of continuity of care for patients.

Equality and Diversity

Our Policy is designed to ensure and promote equality and inclusion, supporting the ethos and requirements of the Equality Act 2010 for all visitors to our Practice.

We are committed to:

  • ensuring that all visitors are treated with dignity and respect
  • promoting equality of opportunity between men and women
  • not tolerating any discrimination or perceived discrimination against, or harassment of, any visitor for reason of age, sex, gender, marital status, pregnancy, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief
  • providing the same treatment and services (including the ability to register with the Practice) to any visitor irrespective of age, sex, marital status, pregnancy, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, medical condition, religion or belief
  • This Policy applies to the general public, including all patients and their families, visitors and contractors

Procedure

Discrimination by the Practice or Visitors / patients against you

If you feel discriminated against:

  • You should bring the matter to the attention of the Practice Manager
  • The Practice Manager will investigate the matter thoroughly and confidentially within 14 working days
  • The Practice Manager will establish the facts and decide whether or not discrimination has taken place, and advise you of the outcome of the investigation within 14 working days
  • If you are not satisfied with the outcome, you should raise a formal complaint through our Complaints Procedure

Discrimination against our Practice staff

The Practice will not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment of our staff by any visitor. Any visitor who expresses any form of discrimination against or harassment of any member of our staff will be required to leave the Practice premises immediately. If the visitor is a patient they may also, at the discretion of the Practice Management, be removed from the Practice list if any such behaviour occurs.

Duty of Candour

We share a common purpose with our partners in health and social care – and that is to provide high-quality care and ensure the best possible outcomes for the people who use our services. Promoting improvement is at the heart of what we do.

We endeavour to provide a first class service at all times but sometimes things go wrong and our service may fall below our expected levels.

In order to comply with Regulation 20 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulations 2014) we pledge to:

  • Have a culture of openness and honesty at all levels
  • Inform patients in a timely manner when safety incidents have occurred which may affect them
  • Provide a written and truthful account of the incident, explaining any investigations and enquiries made
  • Provide a written apology
  • Provide support if you are affected directly by an incident.

Consent Protocol

Consent to treatment is the principle that a person must give permission before they receive any type of medical treatment, test or examination and is generally requested on the basis that an explanation of the required treatment, test or procedure has been received from a Clinician.

Consent from a patient is needed regardless of the procedure, whether it’s a physical examination ,organ donation or something else.

The principle of consent is an important part of medical ethics and international human rights law.

Defining consent

For consent to be valid, it must be voluntary and informed, and the person consenting must have the capacity to make the decision.

These terms are explained below:

  • voluntary– the decision to either consent or not to consent to treatment must be made by the person themselves, and must not be influenced by pressure from medical staff, friends or family
  • informed– the person must be given all of the information in terms of what the treatment involves, including the benefits and risks, whether there are reasonable alternative treatments, and what will happen if treatment doesn’t go ahead
  • capacity– the person must be capable of giving consent, which means they understand the information given to them and they can use it to make an informed decision

If an adult has the capacity to make a voluntary and informed decision to consent to or refuse a particular treatment, their decision must be respected. This is still the case even if refusing treatment would result in their death, or the death of their unborn child.

If a person doesn’t have the capacity to make a decision about their treatment, the Healthcare Professionals treating them can go ahead and give treatment if they believe it’s in the person’s best interests.

Clinicians must however take reasonable steps to seek advice from the patient’s friends or relatives before making these decisions.

How consent is given

Consent can be given:

  • verbally– for example, by saying you are happy to have an X-ray
  • in writing– for example, by signing a Consent Form for surgery to be performed

Someone could also give non-verbal consent, as long as they understand the treatment or examination about to take place – for example, holding out an arm for a blood test.

Consent should be given to the Healthcare Professional directly responsible for the person’s current treatment, such as:

  • a Nurse arranging a blood test
  • a GP prescribing new medication
  • a Surgeon planning an operation

If someone is going to have a major medical procedure such as an operation, their consent should ideally be secured plenty of time in advance, so that they have time to obtain information about the procedure and ask questions.

If a patient changes their mind at any point before the procedure, they are entitled to withdraw their previous consent.

Consent from children and young people

If they’re able to, consent is usually given by patients themselves. However, someone with parental responsibility may need to give consent for a child up to the age of 16 to have treatment.

When consent isn’t needed

There are a few exceptions when treatment may be able to go ahead without the person’s consent, even if they’re capable of giving their permission.

It may not be necessary to obtain consent if a person:

  • requires emergency treatment to save their life, but they’re incapacitated (for example, they’re unconscious) – the reasons why treatment was necessary should be fully explained once they’ve recovered
  • immediately requires an additional emergency procedure during an operation – there has to be a clear medical reason why it would be unsafe to wait to obtain consent, and it can’t be simply for convenience
  • with a severe mental health condition such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or dementia, lacks the capacity to consent to the treatment of their mental health (under the Mental Health Act 1983) – in these cases, treatment for unrelated physical conditions still requires consent, which the patient may be able to provide, despite their mental illness
  • requires Hospital treatment for a severe mental health condition, but self-harmed or attempted suicide while competent and is refusing treatment (under the Mental Health Act 1983) – the person’s nearest relative or an approved Social Worker must make an application for the person to be forcibly kept in Hospital, and two Doctors must assess the person’s condition
  • is a risk to public health as a result of rabies, cholera or tuberculosis (TB)
  • is severely ill and living in unhygienic conditions (under the National Assistance Act 1948) – a person who is severely ill or infirm and is living in unsanitary conditions can be taken to a place of care without their consent

You can always talk to the clinician providing you with care if you have any concerns in relation to consent.

Consent and life-sustaining treatments

A person may be being kept alive with supportive treatments – such as lung ventilation – without having made an advance decision based on information which outlined the care that they may have refused to receive.

In these cases, a decision about continuing or stopping treatment needs to be made based on what that person’s best interests are believed to be.

To help reach a decision, the Healthcare Professionals responsible for the person’s care should discuss the issue with the relatives and friends of the person receiving the treatment.

They should consider, among other things:

  • what the person’s quality of life will be if treatment is continued
  • how long the person may live if treatment is continued
  • whether there’s any chance of the person recovering Treatment can be withdrawn if there’s an agreement that continuing treatment isn’t in the person’s best interests.

The case will be referred to the Courts before further action is taken if:

  • an agreement can’t be reached
  • a decision has to be made on whether to withdraw treatment from someone who has been in a state of impaired consciousness for a long time (usually at least 12 months) It’s important to note the difference between withdrawing a person’s life support and taking a deliberate action to make them die. For example, injecting a lethal drug would illegal.

Complaints

If you believe you’ve received treatment you didn’t consent to, you can make an official complaint, please write to the Practice Manager, who will assist you with this process.

Chaperones

Our Practice is committed to providing a safe, comfortable environment where patients and staff can be confident that best practice is being followed at all times; the safety of everyone is of paramount importance.

All medical consultations, examinations and investigations are potentially distressing. Patients can find examinations, investigations or photography involving the breasts, genitalia or rectum particularly intrusive (these examinations are collectively referred to as ‘intimate examinations’). Consultations involving dimmed lights, the need for patients to undress or intensive periods of being touched may also make a patient feel vulnerable.

Chaperoning is the process of having a third person present during such consultations to provide support, both emotional and sometimes physical, to the patient, to provide practical support to the Doctor as required, and also to protect the Doctor against allegations of improper behaviour during such consultations.