Revealed: 1,500 of NHS staff attacked on duty

ALMOST 1,500 attacks on NHS staff and patients have been recorded at the Royal Free hospital in the past five years but fewer than one in 20 of the incidents led to police arrests, new figures obtained by the Ham&High reveal.

During the last 12 months alone, hospital workers have endured attacks which have led to physical and psychological injuries. Some included cuts, bruises, musculoskeletal injury and one was listed under the category of “unintentional puncture or laceration to organ”.

The figures – obtained under the Freedom of Information Act – show that in 2009, 330 cases of violence and aggression were reported to the trust, a 10 per cent increase on 2008.

Fifty of these assaults were physical, seven involved sexual harassment and 110 were defined as threatening behaviour, the remaining incidents were cases of verbal abuse. Yet despite the high number of attacks, only 19 were reported to the police in 2009 which led to only 14 arrests.

During the past five years, attacks have been reported to the police just 80 times which means the police were informed in just four per cent of the total number of recorded incidents of violence and aggression at the hospital. Sixty arrests were made.

The vast majority of verbal and physical attacks happened on the wards or in the A&E department.

However, three incidents were reported in the operating theatres.

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A further 12 incidents were reported to have occurred in the labour ward and delivery room.

Jim Mansfield, Unison representative for the Royal Free hospital, said: “We used to have a problem with the police not being informed of attacks on staff and with the trust being reluctant to get the police involved.

“It was my understanding that the policy had changed and they were being much more effective about reporting attacks to the police – but hearing these figures, this appears not to be the case.

“It seems to me that they are really good at putting up the notices and posters about reporting abuse on staff, but it seems they are not so good at putting the notices into practice.”

Mr Mansfield said that staff are not always adequately protected and do not always receive the support they deserve.

“If a police officer gets a bruise someone is arrested, there are consequences and the officer gets looked after,” he said. “But staff at hospitals are left to get on with it. It shouldn’t be ok that nurses, doctors and porters expect to get verbally or physically abused and nothing is done about it.

“We shall be looking into this immediately and will be bringing it up strongly at the next meeting with management.”

A spokeswoman for the Royal Free said: “The Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust is dedicated to providing an environment that is as safe as possible for staff, patients and visitors. Security officers patrol the hospital site round the clock every day of the year and the site has more than 250 CCTV cameras. Police community support officers also regularly patrol the hospital.

“The trust operates a door access control system and panic alarm buttons are located in areas around the site. Staff based in the community, such as midwives, are provided with lone worker alarms. Whether an incident is reported to the police depends on its nature, severity and circumstances, and the wishes of the individuals concerned.

“The trust fully supports any staff or patients who wish to report incidents to the police and in some cases the trust will prosecute perpetrators through the courts.”