Protection pledge as hospital assaults rise

The University Hospital of Hartlepool
The University Hospital of Hartlepool

HEALTH chiefs have vowed to try to protect staff after assaults on those working in hospitals rose.

There were 93 staff members in the University Hospital of Hartlepool (pictured) and the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, attacked during 2011-12.

That is a 13 per cent increase compared to the 81 who were victims of assaults the previous year.

But medics say that most of the incidents were due to patients’ illnesses or conditions with only 13 deemed as intentional. Of those, eight were reported to the police.

Out of the total of 93 assaults, 72 happened in medicine and elderly care with Ward 9 in Hartlepool seeing the most attacks with 15.

Ward 9 cares for people suffering from conditions such as dementia that can cause people to act out of character and irrationally.

The figures were discussed at a board of directors meeting of the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.

Kevin Oxley, commercial director for the Trust, said: “It could be that there’s a genuine increase or that there’s better reporting. We are trying to get message over to staff of zero tolerance.

“Eighty were classified as non-intentional, illness or a state of distress has caused them to do something.”

Trust chief executive Alan Foster added: “One of the things that might help is the assessment of people with dementia and the support we will get from the Mental Health Trust.

“It can cause people to change their behaviour and people can unintentionally cause problems.”

Six staff members missed more than three days of work after being assaulted.

Sue Smith, director of nursing and patient safety with the Trust, said training is being provided to staff to avoid future incidents and she is hopeful the figures will come down.

Paul Garvin, Trust chairman, said that although the majority may be due to patients’ conditions the Trust “should be encouraging our staff to take action and ensure the police and CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) can take action and take those responsible to court.”