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8,000 health and social workers assaulted every year

Published 24/03/2016

Almost 25,000 staff in hospitals, clinics and care centres, fire and ambulance services have dealt with attacks while at work in the past three years
Almost 25,000 staff in hospitals, clinics and care centres, fire and ambulance services have dealt with attacks while at work in the past three years

About 8,000 health and social workers are verbally or physically assaulted every year.

Official figures from the past three years show 24,954 front-line staff in Northern Ireland's hospitals, clinics and care centres, fire and ambulance services have dealt with attacks while at work.

Jo-Anne Dobson, Ulster Unionist MLA and the party's health spokeswoman who secured the reports, said front-line workers are being hampered by having to protected themselves.

"I, like the vast majority of people across Northern Ireland, will be disgusted at these outrageous figures," she said.

"Our health staff and emergency workers go to work every day to help people and earn an honest living, not to be abused and assaulted.

"There should be a zero tolerance approach taken to assaults on our health workers and I therefore hope that the people behind the almost 25,000 assaults in the last three years have received appropriate punishments."

The data from Stormont's Department of Health showed fire fighters suffered 135 incidents in 2013, 99 in 2014 and up to the end of November last year the number had jumped again to 123.

Ambulance staff faced 340 attacks in 2013, 356 in 2014 and 250 last year.

The report revealed Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, the most heavily populated of the five trust regions, recorded a total of 9,294 incidents over the three years.

The Northern Trust, which covers the largest area across Antrim and into Mid-Ulster, recorded 4,006 verbal and physical assaults while the Southern Trust, from Dungannon and Armagh across to South Down, recorded 3,926 incidents.

The Western Trust, which covers Co Londonderry and down into Tyrone and Fermanagh, had 3,642 reported incidents against staff over the three years.

Joe McCusker, regional organiser with the Unison trade union, said increasingly staff are being attacked in day-time hours amid frustration over long waiting times in some A&Es.

"Unison are alarmed with these figures. Consistently s taff are having to face abuse while providing front-line services," he said.

"More needs to be done by the employers, but not only them, but by the Assembly, in terms of addressing the issues."

Mr McCusker said: "Many of our members who have been assaulted in the workplace not only received physical injuries but they have prolonged trauma as a result, to the point where they are frightened in the workplace."

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