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Monday, 22 September 2014

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More than 120 north Cumbria hospitals staff assaulted in one year

Hospital bosses today warned they will not tolerate violence after figures revealed nearly 600 workers were attacked in five years.

Dallan McGleenan photo
Dallan McGleenan

The latest figures also show that last year at Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary and the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven 121 employees were assaulted. Most were nurses.

Equally shocking was the number of patients admitted to the hospitals’ A&E Departments with assault-related injuries, the figure for last year standing at 1,498.

A health union says that the true scale of violence being directed at staff may be considerably higher than the official figures suggest because many of the more minor attacks go unreported.

Dallan McGleenan, from the health workers’ union Unison, said: “This kind of violence is a huge issue for staff – and it tends to be under-reported.

“Staff at these hospitals recognise that they are often working in situations where they are dealing with people who are injured, frightened, and often stressed.

“Because of that, some mistakenly think that violence is part of the job.

“But from Unison’s perspective we see it totally differently. Staff are there to help people and they’re entitled to be safe and the employer has to do everything it can to ensure that they are safe.”

Mr McGleenan said the union was currently representing staff who were dealing with the aftermath of an attack at work, including some who have been unable to carry on with their jobs.

He added: “There are well-known cases of people who have been traumatised for life because of violence at these two hospitals.

“That’s not what they signed up for. I have dealt with, and continue to deal with, cases of people who have been seriously and permanently damaged – physically and psychologically – by assaults at work.

“These attacks were not exclusively in A&E. We’d like the trust to be more proactive in carrying out risk assessment and putting in measures to ensure staff safety.”

A spokeswoman for North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust said: “The safety of our staff is a top priority and we have a zero-tolerance policy towards violence against our employees.

“We would always encourage our staff to report physical assaults, big or small, so that we can learn from every occurrence and work to help prevent future incidents.

“It is also important to note that many of the assaults we now see recorded can be related to patients’ conditions.

“We care for many elderly patients who suffer from memory difficulties such as dementia and challenging behaviour can often be a symptom of this.”

The latest figures on assaults show that every year for the last five years nurses have borne the brunt of violent attacks at work.

The spokeswoman said their latest staff survey showed assaults were decreasing and they were committed to keeping the downward trend.

Last year, of the 121 staff assaulted, 35 were nurses or nursing assistants.

The worst year for assaults at north Cumbria’s two hospitals was 2010, when the total rose to 148. In 2012, 42 of the 107 staff attacked across the trust were nurses.

Over the five years covered by the figures – 2009 to 2013 – 65 of those assaulted were student nurses and 87 health care assistants.

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