Plea for security guards at hospital

SECURITY guards must be introduced at a hospital where 37 members of staff have been attacked by violent patients in the past two years, said union officials.

SECURITY guards must be introduced at a hospital where 37 members of staff have been attacked by violent patients in the past two years, said union officials.

Fears are growing that a member of staff could be seriously hurt if improved security measures are not introduced at the West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds.

Despite the growing fears over staff safety, bosses at the West Suffolk Hospitals NHS Trust said a recent risk assessment revealed there was no need to introduce tighter security.

They said the cost of paying for security guards cannot be given priority over patient care. But union officials are now calling for the trust to reconsider its decision.

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Calls are now growing for private security guards to be placed permanently on site to protect vulnerable staff.

Previously, porters were given training to allow them to confront and restrain violent patients, but it is no longer deemed appropriate for hospital staff to intervene in such situations.

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The hospital's Unison branch secretary Graham Kendall said: "We are totally against porters being asked to carry out the role of a security guard. It is not part of their job and it is not safe.

"We want to see properly trained security guards on site so they can be called on at all times in difficult situations.

"We feel staff are more vulnerable and in greater danger than ever, especially in the accident and emergency department where they have to face drunken and abusive people.

"The situation can be very intimidating for the staff at times and we do fear someone could be seriously injured or hurt. We think the trust should look into the situation straight away."

Bosses at the trust said they would not be reconsidering the issue, stressing that the number of violent attacks on staff had dropped dramatically in the last year.

A trust spokesman said: "The trust has a zero tolerance policy in place to ensure that staff, who spend their lives caring for others, are not rewarded with intimidation and violence.

"A total of 43 panic alarms are located in sensitive areas throughout the trust, including A and E, the central delivery suite and the x-ray department. The alarms are linked through to the police station, via the switchboard, and summon an immediate response.

"Signs around the hospital inform patients and visitors that CCTV is in operation and that the police regularly patrol the site and buildings. A recent risk assessment exercise carried out by the trust determined that security staff were not needed.

"The rate of deliberate assaults on staff at the trust dropped from 30 during the financial year 2002/03 to just 7 for the year 2003/04. Also, if we use funds to employ security guards it would mean taking money away from patient care."

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