“I’ve been punched, kicked and spat at – just last month one of the crew had a knife pulled on him”. “The A&E department on a Saturday night is a nightmare to work in – I just dread it.” These alarming accounts from a paramedic and a nurse in A&E are becoming increasingly common warned UNISON, the UK’s largest health union today.
UNISON is calling for tough action to cut down on violence, following statistics released today (5 November) from the NHS Security Management Services, showing that 55,993 NHS staff were physically assaulted in England in 2007/8 – that’s 284 more than the previous year.
Karen Jennings, UNISON Head of Health, said:
“The catalogue of assaults is shameful. What sort of injury do we have to wait for before tough action is taken against violent offenders? Health care workers are four times more likely to be the victims of assault than any other workers
“I fear that the all night drinking culture and a lack of respect is fuelling violence against dedicated NHS paramedics, nurses and health staff who need to be given the protection they deserve.
“Zero tolerance should mean zero tolerance. It is terrifying for both patients and staff to be embroiled in the sort of violence and aggression that goes on in city centre A&E departments on an average Saturday night.
“Despite the best efforts of the Security Management Service the level of prosecutions is pitifully low. UNISON would like to see the number of prosecutions doubled and tough penalties meted out to those found guilty of assault.
“Many of these assaults are preventable and the NHS needs to look at a raft of measures and new ways of working to protect staff. In some places that might mean more police and security staff working in A&E, in others staff training, more CCTV, alarms, better co-ordination between police and ambulance staff, flagging up dangerous areas or building safety features into hospitals and wards.”