30 Sept 2022

Derry hospital staff subjected to hundreds of attacks in past year

Altnagelvin A&E
Hospital staff in Derry whose aim it is to save lives and care for the public were subjected to hundreds of violent attacks over the course of last year, new figures have revealed. These attacks are said to be having a hugely detrimental impact on the workers’ performance, as well as their physical and mental health. Figures released by the Western Trust at the weekend show that at the Derry hospital and others in the Western Trust area, 798 nurses, 18 doctors and 53 other staff members were attacked at work in 2018. A spokesperson for the Western Health and Social Care Trust said it is “important to note” that not all attacks occur within the Emergency Department or are directly related to drug and or alcohol abuse. She commented: “Attacks also take place in our mental health and learning disability facilities.  The Western Trust continues to provide mechanisms to support staff in these areas. “A staff attack alarm system is in place in areas of increased risk across our hospital and community facilities. This allows staff to alert colleagues to any potential danger to patients or staff.  Hospital portering staff also provide a security remit 24 hrs a day on all acute hospital sites within the Western Trust. “Should any Trust staff experience any type of threatening behaviour in the course of their duty, we would reiterate that this is not acceptable and firm action will always be taken in such incidents.” She added: “The Western Trust is committed to the Regional ‘Zero Tolerance' campaign which clearly states that any form of attack or abuse of staff is not acceptable and will not be tolerated by the Trust. “The Trust is currently engaged with the Department of Health and other Trusts across Northern Ireland to develop a Regional Zero Tolerance Policy.” ‘Negative impacts’ Figures provided by Northern Ireland’s five Health Trusts show that last year there were 6,651 attacks on health care staff - 6,138 were directed at nurses, 97 were doctors and there were 416 attacks on other HSC staff. Northern Ireland’s Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) Charlotte McArdle described as “totally unacceptable” any form of attack on nurses and other healthcare workers. The CNO said: “HSC staff work incredibly hard in a high-pressure environment and I am appalled to think that people who dedicate themselves to caring for others and saving lives are being subjected to verbal or physical abuse within their place of work and wish to ensure staff, the public and patients are safeguarded from violent and antisocial behaviour. “These experiences have a hugely negative impact on their performance at work as well as physical and mental health of healthcare staff, and their personal and family relationships. Healthcare workers often express an understanding as to why some people they work with may behave in certain ways, sometimes that’s due to illness but often it’s just unacceptable behaviour. “People tend to think the majority of these attacks occur in A&E Departments where alcohol or drug abuse appear to be causal factors. The majority of recorded incidents across the HSC are linked to persons with mental health and learning disability rather than any malicious intent,” she continued. “Whilst many of these incidents are a direct result of illness Employers need to understand how to meet their responsibilities to employees to fulfil their duty of care and to do that they have to understand particular issues associated with providing care in challenging and complex situations.”

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