Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Sick thugs must be sternly punished

It beggars belief that more than 11,000 attacks on healthcare staff have been reported in little more than two years.

Just what sort of mentality does it take to launch a physical assault on a nurse, doctor, paramedic or any other member of the caring professions? These are people who spend their every working hour helping to alleviate the suffering of others and their reward is to be assaulted by thugs.

Of course there has always been a problem with some patients in late night accident and emergency clinics when they are admitted with injuries usually resulting from excessive alcohol consumption which has left them either victims of assault or being the instigator of the fights. And then they want to continue with their fighting in the clinics. But these cannot account for all the assaults - running at an average of 14 a day.

Having seen thugs launch stone attacks on ambulances and fire crews, perhaps we should not be too surprised that others will carry out even more personal assaults in hospitals, clinics, GP surgeries or wherever they come in contact with healthcare staff. What must continue to be made clear by health authorities, the police and the justice system is that such attacks are beyond the Pale and will not be tolerated.

Hospitals and other health settings should ensure that there are sufficient security staff present to protect those caring for patients. That unfortunately will be a drain on already scarce resources, but frontline healthcare staff should feel reassured that they will not have to face potential assailants alone.

As well, those who assault healthcare staff must be prosecuted without exception and should be given sentences which will serve as a deterrent to others. These are cowardly and vicious assaults and must be treated as such. Healthcare staff already face sufficient pressures in their day-to-day work without having to worry about their personal safety as well.

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