Hospital staff in fear of being attacked by drunken patients

The University Hospital of North Tees
The University Hospital of North Tees

Drunk patients are costing the NHS millions of pounds a year and leaving medics in constant fear of being attacked.

A new report estimates that alcohol costs the NHS in the region £242million a year, equating to £93 per person per year, and £2.7billion nationally.

James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough.

James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough.

The report also found hospital staff experience physical, verbal and sexual assaults from patients under the influence of alcohol.

Alcohol misuse is placing an unsustainable burden on the region’s emergency departments and urgent care services, according to the report by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office.

A senior nurse at University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, said: “I have experienced verbal and physical abuse from patients who were under the influence of alcohol.

“Drunken patients just aren’t bothered if you tell them their swearing and shouting is a disruption to others around them.

“It is totally unacceptable and hugely upsetting to other patients. Many colleagues are disheartened with the abuse and agree that enough is enough.”

Ian Blain, consultant in emergency medicine at The James Cook University Hospital, said: “I have witnessed doctors and nurses - both male and female – having to deal with aggressive patients or family members in the emergency department - and often, that aggression stems from alcohol abuse.

“It’s something we simply will not tolerate in our department and also very distressing for other patients.

“I have experienced patients under the influence of alcohol swinging at me and kicking at me while I am trying to treat them, and have had to call security to restrain those patients and control them.”

Sue Taylor, partnerships manager at Balance, said: “Probably the most shocking aspect of our report is the fact that so many urgent care staff expect to experience physical and verbal abuse as a result of alcohol, as part of their working lives.

“It’s clear that alcohol is placing a huge burden on urgent care staff, who are committed to helping us when we need them the most.

“At a time when the NHS is already under massive pressure, alcohol is placing an unnecessary and unsustainable weight on time and resources.

“This report reinforces the fact that we need to bring alcohol harms under control by making alcohol less affordable, available and widely promoted.”