Belfast Telegraph

Healthcare staff facing daily abuse and violence

By Lesley-Anne Henry

Attacks on healthcare workers in Northern Ireland are on the rise, the Health Minister has warned.

Last year there were more than 8,000 cases where hospital staff and ambulance crews were subjected to violence or verbal abuse by patients.

New figures released by the Department of Health show that workers in Belfast and the South Eastern Trust areas were worst affected and were subjected to attacks on an almost daily basis.

The number of times police have been called to deal with a threatening or abusive patient has more than doubled to 218 in Belfast, while there has been a five-fold increase to 124 in the South Eastern Trust area.

Michael McGimpsey said there should be a zero tolerance on violence and threatening behaviour.

“I am absolutely appalled and disgusted by these violent and uncalled for attacks on healthcare staff,” the minister said.

“For patients who need urgent treatment to then attack the very people who have come to help them is disgraceful and these people should be thoroughly ashamed of their behaviour. Not only are they disruptive to other ill patients, but they are draining staff resources to deal with this where it could be better used. People who assault any health and social care staff should face the full force of the law.”

Meanwhile Dr Paul Darragh, chairman of the British Medical Association, echoed the Health Minister’s alarm.

“BMA(NI) has repeatedly highlighted the unacceptable rise in physical and verbal abuse that doctors and other health care colleagues face in the course of treating patients,” he said.

“There is a personal and financial cost to such attacks.

“If doctors are injured, then they will be unable to treat the patient and will need to take time off to recover — this impacts directly on patient care and also costs the health service money, money that would be better spent on delivering care.”

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