Heartsink patients

Heartsink patients cause doctors anxiety and stress. They account for 11% of the average GP workload. Most GP’s have 20 to 30 patients on their individual lists that they would label as heartsink. Heartsink patients are not always frequent attenders.

Heartsink patients are the doctor’s problem, not the patient’s. I do not have any heartsink patients as I believe that it is all a matter of attitude. If I am finding a particular patient difficult, I stop and look at why this is so. By exploring my own feelings, I find the source of my problem and can then address it. Often the feelings which heartsink patients generate in me are a reflection of a patient’s own feelings: if I am feeling frustrated, this may well be because the patient is feeling this way.

The following list was posted on the internet in 1996: how do you feel about these issues?

“Irritating” patients

  • take up as much time as possible in the surgery
  • produce legions of nebulous complaints all at once
  • undress as slowly as possible
  • want treatment for multitudinous children and relatives (without notes)
  • demand inappropriate certificates
  • do everything they possibly can to avoid leaving the consultation room
  • describe every treatment you give to them as ‘no good’
  • assume that you are clairvoyant in respect of there hospital case records & investigations
  • assume that you are clairvoyant in respect of other partners advice and treatment
  • repeat the same life stories incessantly
  • think they are less well served than others in life
  • ask for inappropriate therapies
  • have children who run riot in the surgery with no hint of parental control
  • throw “the useless” medications across the consulting desk
  • casually swear during a conversation
  • smell
  • demand treatment triggered by a TV advert
  • demand their “rights be fulfilled” before telling you the problem
  • are overfamiliar
  • lie
  • are happy to talk incessantly, but not listen
  • to a word you have to say
  • know you can’t help but ……………..
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