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Hospital staff assaults ‘symptomatic of the impacts of austerity’

PUBLISHED: 20:39 23 December 2017 | UPDATED: 20:39 23 December 2017

Colchester General Hospital. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Colchester General Hospital. Picture: GREGG BROWN

More than 1,000 hospital workers across Suffolk and north Essex have been physically assaulted while on duty in the past four years, new figures reveal.

Ipswich Hospital.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNIpswich Hospital. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Since 2014, 442 members of staff at Ipswich, 243 at West Suffolk and 463 across Colchester General and Essex County hospitals have been violently attacked by a patient or visitor.

Chris Jenkinson, secretary of UNISON in the East of England, said abuse against public service workers was “not acceptable in any circumstances”.

He added: “We are increasingly seeing people presenting with stress-related conditions and anxiety because they are exposed to these kinds of incidents all too frequently and over time that wears people down.”

Mr Jenkinson said the figures were “symptomatic of the impacts of austerity”.

West Suffolk Hospital. Picture: SIMON PARKERWest Suffolk Hospital. Picture: SIMON PARKER

Conflict may arise when public services are unable to meet people’s expectations due to budget cuts, meanwhile more mentally unwell people are going to hospital in a volatile state because support isn’t available in the community to help them manage their condition, Mr Jenkinson said.

He added the prevalence of assaults against NHS workers was compounding recruitment problems.

West Suffolk Hospital chief executive, Stephen Dunn, said one assault on a member of staff was too many.

He said the trust had specialist teams in place to support workers with challenging patients, and the trust was introducing conflict management training for employees.

“For those patients where there is no underlying medical reason for their violence, we look to work with the patient to manage their behaviour,” he added.

“We have now introduced zero tolerance panels and, should issues be ongoing, we will write to individuals explaining that we may withdraw treatment unless it is an emergency if their behaviour is repeated.”

Jan Ingle, a spokeswoman for Ipswich and Colchester, said the hospitals had a “zero tolerance policy” on violence.

According to Freedom of Information figures, just two arrests were made at Ipswich and 10 or fewer at Colchester as a result of these assaults.

West Suffolk Hospital did not provide details of arrests.

Mr Dunn and Mrs Ingle said staff were encouraged to report incidents to police.

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