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Rising Wait Times Linked to Increased Abuse of Hospital Administrators


Three in four (75%) non-medical, patient facing NHS workers  (including receptionists, medical secretaries and ward clerks) report that rising hospital wait times have led to an increase in abuse at work when supporting patients over the past 12 months.

Nearly half of NHS Hospital Administrators (46%) admit to having experienced some form of abuse in their current role from patients on a weekly basis, with nearly half (43%) admitting that they have been brought to tears whilst at work as a result of abuse from a patient, or their family and friends.

The data, commissioned by DrDoctor as the company recently managed its 100 millionth appointment, found that:

  • 56% of hospital administrators have either been threatened whilst at work, or fear being threatened whilst on shift.  
  • In the past year, respondents have had to witness a colleague bear the brunt of abuse often in the form of shouting (47%), swearing (44%) or threatening language / passive aggressive comments (51%).
  • Other forms of abuse witnessed include offensive gestures (20%), racial abuse (13%) and pushing or spitting (13%), with nearly half revealing that this abuse is more likely to come over the phone (48%) when compared to in person (23%).

Lengthy Wait Lists To Blame

The research which surveyed 500 NHS non-medical patient-facing workers points to a worrying correlation between rising waiting lists, and abuse of NHS staff, with almost three quarters of respondents (69%) citing lengthy waiting lists as the main cause of this abuse.

Other factors cited as contributing to the abuse of non-medical frontline NHS staff included:

  • Being frustrated on behalf of a loved one (56%)
  • Not being able to easily rearrange an appointment (42%)
  • Expecting patients to attend an appointment during the working day, or on multiple days to see varying specialists (33%).

According to the data, 41% of hospital administrators now feel more anxious about going to work than they did pre-pandemic, with almost half (35%) considering leaving the NHS to escape the hostile working environment.

In spite of the additional pressure that hospital administrators are being put under, 86% understand and empathise with patients' frustrations.

Reducing The Elective Backlog

The data serves as a stark reminder that the NHS - and its workforce - need more support if we’re to ensure that patients feel safe and cared for in a seamless way.

DrDoctor - who supports trusts in removing communication barriers between the hospital and the patient by empowering patients to take more control over their own NHS pathway - has made available data from its own appointment booking platform to reveal the extent to which this could relieve some of the strain.

The platform data reveals that of more than 100 million appointments managed by DrDoctor (101,528,208), more than 1.2 million were subsequently rearranged by the patient and nearly 20% were canceled - preventing an increase in ‘Do Not Attend’ logs.

According to Julie Child, CEO at Healthcare Workers Foundation: “The NHS is under a huge strain. It’s therefore not surprising - though it is deeply saddening - to see that frontline staff are bearing the brunt of patients' frustrations, fears and stresses associated with increasing wait list times. 

We have been inundated with applications for mental health support from those working in the health service – so much so, that we’ve had to pause our application process while extra funding is sought.

It’s obvious from reading people’s stories that the abuse they are facing is adding to the pressures and challenges of existing workloads at a time when the sector is under more pressure than ever before.

For any frontline workers in need of someone to talk to, we would encourage you to reach out to your own wellbeing lead or one of the mental health charities that work in your local area while we work to reopen our own counselling service.”

Commenting on the data, Tom Whicher, CEO of DrDoctor said that: “It would be an understatement to say that increasing wait list times are putting an immense amount of strain and stress on hospital administrators, the NHS, and patients.

The challenge is that NHS administrators are the first point of contact for a patient with their local hospital, meaning it’s these individuals bearing the brunt of this fear and frustration. Hospital administrators are here to help.

But as capacity challenges continue to haunt the NHS, we can no longer rely on traditional appointment booking systems.

We need to embrace a more hybrid approach to healthcare. This means putting appointment booking and management into the hands of patients.

In doing this, we can create a much more seamless pathway for the patient, and relieve the pressure on our frontline workers”.