ASSAULTS on staff who work at a Hartlepool hospital have rocketed by a quarter in the past year, new figures show.
Research from NHS Protect found there were a total of 123 attacks on workers at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the University Hospital of Hartlepool and its sister hospital in Stockton, in 2013/14.
That compared to just 98 the previous year.
Assaults on North East Ambulance Service staff, who treat people from Hartlepool and East Durham, totalled 73, up from 55 in 2012/13.
The figures have been described as “intolerable” by one health union.
Health chiefs say that many of the attacks are linked to a patient’s medical condition, but they have no hesitation in prosecuting offenders who have no respect for staff.
Speaking about the shock statistics, Unison area organiser Mark Edmundson told the Mail: “Our union finds it intolerable that these attacks on staff at the trust are increasing.
“We understand that with some people it can’t be helped, but there will always be assaults on our members, who work tirelessly for the area.
“Frontline staff should be rewarded for doing what at times is a dangerous job.
“We fully support any action that the trust can take against the perpetrators.”
A breakdown of the figures showed that 111 of the incidents involved medical factors, meaning they did not know what the perpetrators were doing when they carried out the attack due to illness, mental ill health or because of the treatment being administered to them.
Ian Clough, assistant director of occupational health, safety and wellbeing at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said: “We encourage staff to report incidents and we take them all very seriously.
“Many incidents are unintentional and are caused by patients whose illnesses have left them confused and unable to take responsibility for their own behaviour.
“Sadly in a small number of cases the offenders have no respect for our staff.
“Staff come to work to care for people and they should not be subject to these types of incidents in the course of their duties.
“We have no hesitation in helping to bring these people to justice.
“We also will always support staff through these very difficult times.”
Nationally, the number of criminal convictions following reported assaults has risen by 191, from 1,458 to 1,649 – a rise of 13.1 per cent.
Overall, there was a rise of 8.7 per cent in total reported assaults from 63,199 in 2012/13 to 68,683 in 2013/14.
Richard Hampton, head of external engagement and services at NHS Protect, said: “No NHS staff should be physically assaulted and we encourage staff who are victims of violence to press charges against assailants.
“Those who work in the NHS have the right to provide care in a safe environment.
“Employers must do all they can to support staff in preventing incidents and pursuing offenders.”