Shock rise in NHS attacks

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SCORES of medics have been targeted by yobs after a huge rise in shameful attacks on NHS staff.

Assaults have gone up by 75 per cent in just 12 months.

Attacks in 2010-11 included 18 punches, 17 scratches, nine kicks, seven slaps and four head-butting incidents.

Physical attacks on hospital workers have risen by 75 per cent in just 12 months, from 50 in 2009-10 to 87 in 2010-11.

And since April, there has been 57 attacks, including 21 punches, six kicks, four slaps and a head-butting.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust chiefs say they will not tolerate attacks by patients or visitors after it was revealed an average of almost two medics a week are attacked while working in hospital.

Bosses say that while some assaults can be carried out by confused patients, intentional violence could see attackers facing prosecution.

Union bosses say violence against employees nationally costs the NHS £60.5m a year and they are “extremely concerned” that members are regularly subjected to physical assaults by patients who they are trying to help.

The director responsible for health and safety at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, Kevin Oxley, said: “We encourage staff to report incidents and we’ve found that many of them are caused by patients whose illnesses affect their behaviour leaving them confused.

“We take all intentional assaults extremely seriously and we have no hesitation in helping to bring these people to justice.

“Staff come to work to care for people and they should not be subject to these types of attack in the course of their duties.”

The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS), which runs paramedic services in Hartlepool and east Durham, saw 59 attacks on staff reported in 2010/11.

There were also 115 reports of non-physical assaults, down six on the previous year.

The Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, which runs mental health services in Hartlepool and east Durham, saw 1,783 attacks on workers.

There were no attacks reported on staff at NHS Hartlepool, NHS County Durham or NHS Stockton, which covers Billingham, Wolviston and parts of Wynyard.

Nationally, there were 57,830 physical assaults on NHS staff last year, an increase of 1,112 on the previous 12-months.

David Edwards, NEAS risk officer/local security management specialist, said: “Violence and abuse is completely unacceptable and should always be treated as such.

“It is not part of the job and we continue to look at avenues for reducing the risk of incidents of violence and aggression occurring.”

Royal College of Nursing regional director, Glenn Turp, said: “We are extremely concerned that many of our members across the region are regularly subjected to physical assaults by patients who they are trying to help.

“One assault is one too many. Let’s face it, no one goes to work expecting to be assaulted.

“Alcohol and drug abuse clearly fuels some of the incidents, but this is certainly no excuse for them.

“Potential legal sanctions have been increased by the Government and we fully support trusts who seek to work with police and others to pursue all assaults through the courts.

“Nurses are under incredible strain at the moment, and the last thing they need to worry about is whether they are going to get assaulted at work.

“Physical violence against employees costs the NHS £60.5m a year, so we also want to see proper security in place to prevent these incidents happening in the first place.”

THE Hartlepool Mail reported in September how town thug Peter Thompson, 31, launched a vicious attack on a nurse because she would not let him go and get a cup of tea.

Thompson, of Garside Drive, Hartlepool, thumped her in the chest, winded and knocked her off balance during the terrifying attack while he was being treated at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

The victim needed to be looked at by medics in the A&E department at the hospital after she tried to persuade him to stay in bed, a court heard.

Prosecuting, Alan Davison said the assault happened the day after Thompson was admitted, on July 26, in a “potentially overdosed state, confused and intoxicated” and the nurse was giving him one-to-one care.

Geoff Morley, chairman of the bench at Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court, told Thompson, who the court heard has a history of violence, it was a “serious offence” on “somebody who is a healthcare professional”.

He added: “Make no mistake, custody was a very real sentencing option.”

Thompson, who has a history of violence, admitted common assault and a string of other offences and was given an 18-month community order with a supervision requirement.

Mr Davison added: “In police interview he had no recollection of what happened due to being under the influence of drugs and he said if he had done anything like that, in his opinion he would have been disgusted.”

John Relton, mitigating, said Thompson had himself been a victim of violence when he was attacked and “left for dead” on his own doorstep in 2008.

He said this had left him “rather slow and rather forgetful and sometimes unaware of the seriousness of what he is dealing with”.