In a GP and Nurse Consultation, you will most likely come across angry patients. Enraged patients can cause a plethora of issues for all parties such as: GP, Nurses, general practice staff, other patients and even the patient them self. This article is here to advise on the most common triggers of patient anger and the best solutions to approach their anger and defuse the situation.

Common Causes of Patient Anger

Patients who are expressing anger towards yourself as a clinician or a colleague can make a situation heated and emotional. How you deal with this as a professional is key and sadly a skill that is needed in a GP and Nurse Consultation. This can be even harder when you are a primary care Locum GP or Locum Nurse in an unfamiliar environment.

Being unwell and possibly in pain makes people anxious and this can develop into anger very easily. Delayed appointments are usually the main culprit to outbursts of anger; the other most common cause of expressed anger in a practice is not even from the patient but a loved one who is anxious over their loved one’s wellbeing. Third-party fury can be more intense than the anger of an individual and can become overheated if roused by colluding friends and family.

The Triggers

Standard triggers of patient anger come from feeling that they or their aliment are not being taken seriously, disappointment at the lack of therapeutic success of their treatment plan, and misunderstandings, such as when the patient expects one treatment but gets another and the doctor fails to explain the rationale.

Patients or relatives feeling frustrated or guilty that they should have come to the surgery sooner or cared better is another common reason for anger.

Anger is natural in grief or when adjusting to a serious diagnosis. For most angry patients and relative’s anxiety is often the trigger.

Strategies for Dealing with Patient Anger

Two of the best strategies to shorten the period of anger are reflection and legitimisation. An example of a reflection statement is: ‘You are upset because you think I do not really believe you are suffering.’

These statements are often more effective than direct questions, which can be seen as intrusive or confrontational.

After several simple reflective comments, legitimise the patient’s anger. For example, you can say: ‘I can understand why you are upset. You came to me to find some physical cause for your pain. I cannot find any problem and now I am sending you to a psychiatrist. I might be upset also if I were in your position.’

This expression of understanding and legitimising your patient’s emotion is reassuring to them. It usually prevents any further problems and is a powerful method for establishing trust and rapport between the doctor and the patient.


Dealing with patient anger is no easy task. As a clinician, you must always remember that it is the patient who is angry and not you. Depending on your temperament this can be easy or difficult, but it is easy for a simple misunderstanding to escalate and develop into an argument. Keeping calm is key. Do not let anger go untreated and deal with it effectively, as this can cause issues during the consultation.

We at AppLocum hope this article helps you with any issues you may need to handle and overcome in the future. Please feel free to leave any comments and if you do have any personal or private question, get in touch:


Phone: 0161 711 0655

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