Man with knife at Whittington Hospital sparks safety fears for NHS staff

The safety of NHS staff at local hospitals has been brought into question after a man brought a 12-inch bread knife into a building and two workers were sexually assaulted.

Harjit Singh, 45, of Southall, groped two Royal Free Hospital staff members while being treated in A&E in April, a court heard on Friday.

One month earlier in an unrelated incident, Gideon Wall, 50, of Holloway, was seen with a kitchen knife at the Whittington Hospital in Archway, the same court was told on Monday.

Royal Free Unison representative Jim Mansfield said the incidents raised concerns over the safety of hospital staff.

He said: “It’s the first time I’ve ever heard of it happening.For it to happen even once is a worry, but hospitals are public buildings.

“We put in place as much protection as we can, but while these incidents are very few and far between, they shouldn’t happen at all. Security guards on every ward would very much change the nature of the place.”

Mr Mansfield will raise the incidents at the Royal Free’s next safety committee meeting.

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Assaults on NHS staff have increased nationally by 8.7 per cent from 63,199 in 2012-2013 to 68,683 in 2013-2014, according to latest figures.

It is a different picture at the Whittington, which has reported that the percentage of staff who have experienced physical violence from patients and the public was 10 per cent in 2014, below the national average of 14 per cent.

The Royal Free and the Whittington have stated that staff are trained to deal with incidents. They also employ a specialist security team.

Singh “lunged” and grabbed a worker’s breast four hours after he was taken in an ambulance to A&E on the morning of April 8, Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court was told.

Not long afterwards, he gave another worker a “sharp slap” on her bottom before grabbing her backside while on a toilet break.

Singh was released on bail on Friday from Pentonville Prison, where he was remanded in custody for 21 days after failing to appear in court last month.

He is due to be sentenced on June 19 for two counts of sexual assault and for failing to surrender to court bail after pleading guilty last month.

Wall is due to be sentenced on June 22 for possessing a knife blade in a public place on March 11 following his guilty plea last month. The sentencing was adjourned on Monday for a pre-sentence report.

A spokeswoman for the Whittington Hospital NHS Trust said: “All our frontline staff are trained in conflict avoidance, which supports staff to have the tools to resolve conflict and we have a highly skilled security team on site 24 hours a day to support staff in managing any potentially difficult situation

“Incidents are very rare and where they do happen our staff are trained to deal with them quickly and safely.”

A spokeswoman for the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust added: “The safety and security of our staff is one of our priorities. At each of our sites there is a specialist security team who are available to assist with any incidents 24 hours a day. All staff are given training, including how to call the security team and how to report an incident.”