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Jan 14 2011

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UK: 780 physical attacks on health staff – just 8 reported to police

from Londonderry Sentinel

Shocking levels of abuse – nurses, doctors and social workers were physically attacked 780 times in the Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) last year – are not being fully reported to the PSNI, according to a police Freedom of Information (FOI) release.

In 2009/10 just eight assaults at Altnagelvin – the largest facility in the Western Trust – were reported to the PSNI in Foyle.

This is in spite of WHSCT figures that show there were over 1,277 cases of verbal and physical abuse against healthcare staff in the Western Trust area in 2009/10.

Nurses, doctors and social workers were physically attacked 780 times last year in the Trust; they were subjected to verbal abuse on 497 separate occasions. Only in Belfast were there as many assaults.

But according to information released by the PSNI a mere fraction of these assaults are being reported.

“Over the past five years the police in Londonderry were made aware of a mere 48 assaults at Altnagelvin – despite it being the Trust’s largest facility.

Nine assaults were reported in 2005/6; 8 in 2006/7; 11 in 2007/8; 12 in 2008/9; and 8 in 2009/10.

The Western Trust said it remained committed to a “Zero Tolerance” campaign it launched last summer to deal with the problem.

A spokesperson said it was clear in its position that any form of violence and aggression was unacceptable.

A spokesperson commented: “Staff provide high quality care to patients and clients in both hospital and community settings and they must be allowed to do so without the fear of violence or attack.

“Staff are encouraged to report all incidents regardless of how low the severity and the Trust has processes in place to reduce the risk of incidents occurring.”

The spokesperson continued: “The Trust has developed close working relationships with local PSNI teams who respond immediately to any call for assistance and who give us full co-operation.

“The figures reported to DHSSPS include all incidents such as verbal attacks, which is significantly higher than the figure referred to PSNI.

“The Trust continues to review and invest in the safety provisions in place, robustly challenges any incidents of attacks or abuse of staff and proactively works with staff in relation to any follow-up action.

“The Trust has in place a Zero Tolerance group and Health and Safety Group both of which work with staff representatives to address risks and to encourage staff to report appropriate incidents to the Police.”


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