Table 1

Examples of acts of patient aggression towards general practice receptionists

Severity category*Examples
  • Confrontational, frustrated or angry tone of voice4 7 17 30

  • Impatient and demanding21

  • ‘Insisting on’,26 ‘bargaining’ for4 and using manipulation32 for access to appointments

  • Refusing to answer receptionist’s questions about reasons for visit17

  • ‘Standover tactics’24 and agitated body language17

  • ‘Dirty’ or ‘contemptuous’ looks from patients19

  • Unpredictable temperament15

  • Wrongly attributing blame to receptionist19

Verbal abuse (eg, shouting, threatening tone, personal insults)
  • Shouting, yelling24 29 31

  • Losing temper31

  • Intimidating32 or threatening tone18

  • Racial abuse7 27

  • Ableist insults such as ‘lazy’ and ‘dumb’24

Verbal abuse with specific threats (eg, shaking a fist, threatening to strike or harm the receptionist)
  • Verbal threat of physical violence27 33

  • Verbal threat to receptionist’s family27

  • Sexual harassment8 27

  • Threatened with a razor blade32

  • Threatened with a gun32

  • Held up and robbed at gunpoint32

Verbal abuse with physical action against inanimate objects (eg, banging a table, throwing a chair)
  • Threatened with weapon27

  • Slamming doors32

Physical action without injury (eg, pushing, shoving, blocking access)
  • Being struck/hit8

  • Physical action27

  • Bag of used syringes thrown at receptionist32

  • Property damage8

  • Theft of staff money and clinic items (drugs, prescription pads)24

  • Patient barricading themselves in a bathroom until demands were met24

Physical action with injury (eg, minor cuts and bruises)
  • Hit on the head with a walking stick32

  • Physical assault8

Severe harm (injury requiring hospitalisation, stalking, rape, stabbing, gunshot, murder)
  • Stalking8

  • Axe attack (on GP)24

  • *categories adapted from Hobbs28