Belfast Telegraph

Violent patients could be hit with fines, warns Edwin Poots

By Lisa Smyth

Violent patients could be hit with on-the-spot fines in a move to cut the shameful toll of attacks on healthcare workers, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Health Minister Edwin Poots has raised with his Executive colleaguses the possibility of fining abusive patients.

In particular, he wants to take a strong stance against patients who attack NHS employees while drunk.

The Executive has also discussed setting up a register of patients with a history of attacking healthcare staff so NHS employees know when they are dealing with a potentially violent person.

The move has been welcomed by doctors and nurses across Northern Ireland and comes to light days after the Belfast Telegraph revealed more than 14 physical attacks are being reported against healthcare staff in Northern Ireland every day.

Figures obtained by the Belfast Telegraph showed 11,145 assaults have been carried out on our doctors, nurses, paramedics and other frontline staff since April 2009.

Mr Poots said: “My department takes the issue of violence against

health and social care staff extremely seriously. I have discussed this issue of attacks on frontline staff with ministerial colleagues and we are keen to explore a number of potential solutions.

“Current measures being considered include the introduction of on-the-spot fines for those causing verbal or physical abuse to healthcare staff.”

Dr Paul Darragh, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Northern Ireland Council, said: “All healthcare workers should be able to go to work without fear of being verbally or physically abused.

“The BMA has been calling for a flag system for patients with a history of violence so staff are aware of any potential danger.”

Background

Northern Trust: 1,899 attacks, |April 2009-June 2011

Belfast Trust: 5,278, April 2009-August 2011

Southern Trust: 1,497, April 2009-June 2011

Western Trust: 1,363, April 2009-March 2011

South Eastern Trust: 1,108, April 2009-March 2011

TOTAL: 11,145

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