A response to patient-initiated aggression in general practice: Australian professional medical organisations face a challenge

Aust J Prim Health. 2010;16(3):252-9. doi: 10.1071/PY09074.


Little is known about the incidence, prevalence, and impact of patient-initiated aggression against general practice staff in Australia or how medically related professional organisations respond to this. The few available Australian studies suggest that up to about two-thirds of Australian GPs experience patient-initiated aggression within a 12-month period. This paper reports on relevant professional stakeholder organisations' perceptions of and response to aggression perpetrated against their members working in Australian general practices. Thirteen organisations each nominated a representative to undertake a one-off semi-structured interview. Respondents informed the study findings from organisational, practice level, and Divisions of General Practice perspectives. While all professional organisations were cognisant of the presence of violence and aggression in Australian general practice, very few offered proactive measures in the management of difficult or aggressive patients, or practical support to their members. Organisations with fewer members involved in general practice were overall more supportive and proactive with regard to education, training, and publications than were organisations with a greater proportion of their membership involved in general practice settings. Respondents believed the current socio-political climate provided opportunity for a greater organisational response, but there was uncertainty regarding the appropriate response in view of a lack of evidence base.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Aggression*
  • Australia
  • General Practice*
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Societies, Medical
  • Violence / prevention & control*