Let’s get tough on people who abuse hospital workers

NHS staff have been assaulted at work
NHS staff have been assaulted at work
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HUNDREDS of doctors and nurses have been on the receiving end of verbal and physical abuse while carrying out their work.

The News can reveal that since February 2009, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust (PHT) has recorded 900 incidents of abuse.

Of these, 408 have been physical assaults, while 374 incidents were verbal.

Others include incidents of aggressive behaviour, racial and sexual assault.

And the information shows the number of incidents reported to the trust, which runs Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, have been increasing year on year.

In 2009, there were 256 attacks – this went up to 288 in 2010 and then to 296 last year. Up to February this year, there have been 60 incidents.

The figures have been obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Syd Rapson, a member of the board of governors at QA, said the figures were disgraceful.

‘This is not acceptable and needs to be resolved,’ he said.

‘I’ve been concerned about attacks on staff for some time.

‘These people are trying to help others and they should not be facing abuse – it’s quite disgraceful.

‘Some members of the public can be difficult.

‘For instance, they may have been drinking during a football game and then come into A&E.

‘If there’s been a bad result then there can be some nasty scenes. I feel sorry for staff that have to put up with that attitude.

‘Pressure is always on for staff and this sort of abuse needs to be stamped out.’

Unison, the union which represents healthcare workers, has called for more prosecutions of people that carry out the attacks.

Regional organiser Mike Wilson said: ‘It’s a pressured environment that our members are working in.

‘We know the problem isn’t specific to PHT. This is something that is being experienced nationally. There has to be prosecutions put in place for patients who do this.

‘Sometimes patient illness means they are not in control of their actions.

‘But those who are acting out under the influence of drugs or alcohol need to be prosecuted in a reasonable and proportionate way.

‘Staff are there to look after patients.’

A trust spokesman said they have a zero-tolerance policy and have a trained security team if needed.

They added: ‘There is no significant increase in the number of incidents involving staff.

‘PHT takes the safety of both its staff and patients extremely seriously and adopts a zero-tolerance approach.

‘Patients may sometimes display aggressive behaviour because of an underlying medical condition.

‘And any such incident would be managed by experienced and appropriately trained clinical staff.’