Hospital staff facing violence while at work

Attacks: The Accident & Emergency Dept at Sheffield's Northern General Hospital.
Attacks: The Accident & Emergency Dept at Sheffield's Northern General Hospital.
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STAFF at Sheffield’s hospitals face physical attacks, racial abuse and death threats while they work to save lives, information obtained by The Star reveals.

Nurses, doctors and patients were victim to 873 physical and verbal attacks at Sheffield’s hospitals in the last year, including one stabbing with a needle, 15 cuts and a fracture.

There were 787 attacks at the city’s five adult hospitals, and 86 at Sheffield Children’s Hospital sites between September 2010 and August this year.

Bosses at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - which runs the adult hospitals - said the situation is improving, with a 40 per cent reduction from 1,105 attacks the year before.

But trade unionists said much more needs to be done to protect staff.

Joan Keane, GMB regional health officer, said: “It’s still very worrying to see the huge number of attacks - especially when many incidents are probably not reported.

“Protecting staff from violence and aggression is one of the things that falls to the bottom of the list when hospital trusts are facing cutbacks.”

Hospital bosses said 96 per cent of assaults are linked to patients’ medical conditions - particularly brain injuries, withdrawal from drink and drugs, and reactions to medication.

Professor Hilary Chapman, chief nurse and chief operating officer at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said: “Many patients are not deliberately aggressive or violent but due to their medical condition sometimes assaults can occur.”

But she said the trust had adopted a ‘zero-tolerance policy’ in cases of deliberate intimidation.

Some 239 physical assaults by patients were reported at the adult teaching hospitals, according to figures obtained by The Star under the Freedom of Information Act.

Of those, 30 attacks caused abrasions, 38 bruising, 18 sprains, 15 lacerations, one scalding and one stabbing with a needle.

A further 548 incidents of threatening behaviour were recorded.

Separate information from South Yorkshire Police revealed the threatening incidents included racial abuse, threats to kill, rowdy behaviour and three occasions when suspects were in possession of a weapon.

Prof Chapman added: “We carry out appropriate risk assessments and always try to ensure we have the correct staff in place to care for patients safely.

“We are continually looking at ways to tackle the issue of violence or intimidation our staff can at times encounter.”

Sheffield Children’s Hospital Trust saw 86 attacks - most of them at the Becton young people’s mental health facility in Beighton.

The attacks included 51 assaults by children on staff, including one incident when a nurse was attacked with a plastic cricket bat.

Police were called to Children’s Hospital sites on four occasions - once when a father was arrested when he attacked his wife in a stairwell.

A spokeswoman for Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust said: “The safety of our patients, their families and our staff is of paramount importance.

“We are committed to creating positive and secure environments which are free from assault and abuse.”

Police were called to hospital sites across South Yorkshire 216 times in the same period for reports of violence, making 26 arrests.

They attended hospitals in Sheffield 93 times, Rotherham 39 times, Barnsley 53 times, and Doncaster 31 times.