Sheffield NHS staff subjected to more than 300 attacks

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HUNDREDS of cases of verbal and physical abuse by patients and visitors have been recorded at Sheffield hospitals this year.

Figures obtained under The Star’s Your Right to Know campaign reveal that between the start of January and the beginning of November, 166 incidents of verbal abuse were recorded at Northern General and Royal Hallamshire hospitals, while there were 171 cases of violence.

While the majority of physical assaults recorded relate to medical conditions or involve confused elderly patients, more than a third of verbal abuse recorded took place in the accident and emergency department - sparking fears the problem could get worse during the Christmas and New Year period.

Managers at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has warned it operates a zero tolerance approach to abuse.

Cases at Northern General this year include four young boys wearing ski masks abusing a staff member outside trust property, abusive phone calls and a female patient who became rude and aggressive when scan equipment broke down and delayed her.

Records also show drunk patients being offensive in A&E with others swearing at staff over waiting times, transport and transfers.

Meanwhile, a dental patient became abusive after their procedure was cancelled because they had not starved to prepare them for general anaesthetic.

There was also an abusive phone call from a patient when refused their choice of drug and another patient became angry when they had to wait 15 minutes for medication prior to discharge.

Further data from NHS Protect has shown Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust reported 433 physical assaults on staff in the 2011/2012 period - 56 of which were not related to medical conditions.

Professor Hilary Chapman, operating officer at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have a zero tolerance approach to any verbal or physical abuse against our staff and take considerable precautions to limit the chances of our staff coming to harm.

“We do also report such assaults to the police for further action and prosecution. However, it should be stressed the figures reported also include a high proportion of incidents where patients have not been deliberately aggressive or violent.

“The incident has more often than not been as a result of their medical condition at the time. Despite this we would once again ask all patients and visitors to respect our staff so they can deliver care without fear of abuse or violence.”

Coun John Campbell, of UNISON, said: “It is about respect. People work in the health service because they care for others and support people in need. 
That becomes difficult when they are challenged unfairly while carrying out duties.”