Rise in assaults on staff highlights increased pressure on health service
Violence against health workers must stop, a Catholic medic has warned, amid a rise in incidents.
Dr Philip Howard, a former President of the Catholic Medical Association (CMA), who remains on the council as a past president, said it was of great importance for the causes of the assaults to be recognised and looked into.
“We would all agree that physical assaults against healthcare workers, including nurses and ambulance crews are totally unacceptable,” Dr Howard told The Universe.
Citing a recent investigation commissioned by trade union Unison, Dr Howard, describing the figures as “worrying”, pointed out that an estimated 200 physical assaults on staff occur each day within the NHS.
“The problem is greatest in mental health, A&E departments and those NHS Trusts with staff shortages and deficits,” he added.
The research for Unison revealed a near-10 per cent rise in assaults in England last year, with a 21 per cent increase in A&E departments.
There were 56,435 assaults in 2016/17 compared with 51,447 the previous year in NHS trusts which responded to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request submitted by health magazine HSJ on behalf of the union.
Trusts treating fewer patients within 18 weeks of referral saw the biggest increase in assaults, as did those struggling with financial deficits.
“The survey identified nine triggers including prolonged waiting times, unsafe, inhospitable or dehumanising environments, intense emotional experiences, unacceptable behaviour and inadequate responses, inefficiency, staff shortages and fatigue,” explained Dr Howard.
“It is essential that the problem is recognised and the valuable work of our NHS staff is acknowledged and appreciated by the public,” he added. “The increasing problem of violence underlines the increasing strain on the NHS. The problem both reflects and exacerbates poor morale and leads to more staff leaving.”
Unison highlighted a number of incidents, including a healthcare assistant on an orthopaedics ward where a patient with mental health issues shut the door of his room, grabbed her by the arm, put her in a headlock and would not let go.
A registered nurse said that staffing pressures are making the situation worse. She has been slapped by patients and recently saw a colleague punched in the face.
A male nurse in an acute admissions unit witnessed a colleague being threatened with a knife, saw a patient throw a chair through a window, while another was aggressive to staff who tried to prevent him from smoking on the ward.
An NHS England spokesman said: “It is completely unacceptable that any member of NHS staff should be assaulted physically or verbally as they care for patients. We will work with the police to do everything we can to prosecute assaults.”Tags: assaults, Catholic Medical Association, Dr Philip Howard, NHS, police