Drive to protect NHS staff from attacks
MORE than 50 people have been prosecuted for unprovoked and violent attacks against NHS staff in East Anglia last year, new figures have revealed. The Department of Health said there has been a 1500% rise in the number of people taken to court as it bids to improve workers safety.
MORE than 50 people have been prosecuted for unprovoked and violent attacks against NHS staff in East Anglia last year, new figures have revealed.
The Department of Health said there has been a 1500% rise in the number of people taken to court as it bids to improve workers safety.
There were 759 prosecutions nationwide last year, including 55 in this region, compared to just 51 cases across the UK in 2002/03.
Among the violence in East Anglia was an attack an Essex Ambulance Service technician who was assaulted by four offenders and suffered head and arm injuries. Three people were later found guilty and sentenced to six months imprisonment.
And at Ipswich Hospital, a patient started kicking and punching at random when a security guard tried to move her from the accident and emergency (A&E) department.
The woman hit the security guard and was later charged with common assault and sentenced to two months' imprisonment.
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But a spokesman for Essex Rivers NHS Trust – responsible for Colchester's County and General Hospitals, said attacks were more likely to happen on the wards rather than in an A&E department.
He said: "There is more of an issue with elderly patients who are confused and are more likely to physically and verbally assault staff.
"We have security staff and they will, as part of their rounds, go into accident and emergency department and they patrol the whole site."
A spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital said: "We have a clear policy about managing difficult or abusive patients.
"We have a zero tolerance policy towards any violence or abusive behaviour – there is strong security and 24-hour CCTV coverage and staff have personal safety training courses.
"It is a very small handful of people who cause problems, but one person is one person too many because hospitals are places of safety and well-being."
She added the number of prosecutions had gone up after staff were encouraged to report all incidents of threatening and abusive behaviour.
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said: "Violence against NHS staff is completely unacceptable. For a minority of people to show them such disrespect is intolerable.
"The huge increase in prosecutions demonstrates that we will take tough action against anyone who attacks them.
"Although I am pleased with this increase, it also illustrates the extent of the problem. Working with the NHS Security Management Service, I am determined to reduce the number of violent incidents occurring in the NHS. NHS staff should not have to tolerate such abuse."
The increased number of prosecutions followed changes, put in place since November 2003.
They included creating a new legal protection unit to ensure legal action is taken against anyone who assaults NHS staff, including taking private prosecutions.
A new national reporting system for physical assaults was also installed so the nature of any problem can be properly assessed and repeat offenders can be tracked