Childhood emergencies

May 2010


Patient initiated aggression and violence in Australian general practice

Volume 39, No.5, May 2010 Pages 323-326

Laura Forrest

Rhian Parker

Kelsey Hegarty

Hagen Tuschke


Aggressive and violent behaviour by patients, or their relatives or friends, toward general practice staff is a matter of national concern. Forms of this behaviour include verbal and physical abuse, property damage, theft, stalking, sexual harassment and sexual abuse.


To determine the prevalence of patient initiated aggression and violence in Australian general practice a review of the literature was undertaken. Electronic databases were searched for relevant articles from 1989–2009.


Four regional Australian studies and one national New Zealand study were identified for comparison. These studies provided varied data on the prevalence of patient aggression and violence perpetrated toward general practitioners. None of the quantitative studies included other general practice staff.


Australian data investigating patient initiated aggression and violence in general practice are limited. Findings should be interpreted with caution due to methodological limitations. The lack of national data needs to be addressed.

All forms of violence have increased in recent decades internationally, and in 1996 were declared a public health concern of epidemic proportion with extensive health care ramifications.1 It has been well recognised in the literature that workers in any health care setting can be the target of some form of violence at some stage during their career.2–6 The importance of research on the topic of violence against health care workers has been highlighted in numerous international publications and declarations.7–9

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