Bury St Edmunds: Dementia patients behind high levels of violence against staff at West Suffolk Hospital

Hospital-ward

- Credit: IAN BURT

Staff at West Suffolk Hospital are being subjected to more violence than those at other hospitals due to its high number of dementia patients, it has been claimed.

The hospital came in the top 20 nationally in the recent NHS staff survey for the amount of staff reporting suffering physical violence at the hands of patients and their families.

Jan Bloomfield, the hospital’s executive director of workforce and communications, said: “When anybody sees this, they assume it’s about a Friday night in A&E, but this is about how we’re attending to people with cognitive behavioural issues.

“What staff want to supply is healthcare and support, and then they find themselves in a conflict resolution situation.

“We do a lot with staff around conflict resolution, and a lot around dementia training, all to deal with patients with a clinical cause. There’s lots of other support we give staff you wouldn’t necessarily see reported here.”

There were 19% of staff that reported being subject to physical violence at least once in the past year, compared to an average of 15% across the country’s 140 non-specialist acute trusts.


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The worst rate nationally was 20%, which was scored by six trusts, while nine other trusts also had a rate of 19%.

Jeremy Hughes, Alzheimer’s Society chief executive, said: “One in four hospital beds are occupied by people with dementia at any one time. Many people with the condition will not display any sort of violent behaviour.

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“However, hospitals can be very stressful places, and people with dementia who are unable to communicate their fear or stress may act in a seemingly violent way.

“It is vitally important that all staff who work in hospitals have a good understanding of dementia and the ways it may impact on a person’s stay. By focusing on the symptoms and the reasons for the behaviours that some people may display, we can ensure that drastic and unnecessary measures such as antipsychotic prescriptions or restraint are avoided.”

The West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group wants to bring the rate of anti-psychotic drugs prescribed to dementia patients down from 14.3% to 12.9%, as well as increase the official diagnosis rate from 42% to 65%.

The number of people with dementia in west Suffolk is set to rise from 3,256 to 7,995 by 2025, while referrals for memory assessment have increased by 17% each year since 2012.

The NHS staff survey was generally positive for West Suffolk Hospital, with it ranking in the top fifth nationally for the numbers of staff that would recommend it as a good place to work or receive treatment.

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