Background: Violence and threatening behaviour towards health care employees is a recognized hazard. There is a lack of research into the perceptions of general practice (GP) receptionists about this important workplace hazard.
Aim: To determine the factors that influence reception staff perceptions regarding the risk of future violent and threatening incidents at work.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey using a self-administered postal questionnaire was carried out among reception staff working in 49 GPs in two UK National Health Service Primary Care Trusts.
Results: Forty-nine (72%) practices agreed to participate. Two hundred and seven (68%) reception staff participated. Receptionists who reported having been threatened or attacked in the past 12 months were more likely to be worried about being threatened [odds ratio (OR) 4.9; 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.0-11.8] or attacked (OR 4.6; 95% CI 1.8-11.2) in the future. Receptionists with higher neuroticism scores were more worried about the future possibility of violence. Staff who felt safe and supported at work (P = 0.003) and staff who had lower background sources of stress at work (P < 0.001) were less likely to feel they would be threatened or attacked at work. Staff who had received training about violent and abusive incidents felt safer at work (OR = 1.27; 95% CI 1.04-1.55).
Conclusion: Previous episodes of threats or attacks at work make receptionists more worried about future episodes. Factors which reduce reception staff anxieties about violence and threat at work are working in a supportive environment where work stressors are controlled and receiving training on how to deal with violent, threatening and difficult behaviour.