Belfast Telegraph

Nearly 35,000 assaults on Northern Ireland NHS hospital staff over past five years

There were nearly 35,000 assaults on NHS hospital staff in Northern Ireland in the last five years, it has been revealed.

The Detail news website has reported there were 34,373 assaults recorded between January 2013 and December 2017- on average nearly 19 incidents per day.

The figures show that some staff were concussed, bruised, bitten and burned. One person was choked. Others sustained lacerations, fractures, sprains, deep tissue injuries as well as psychological problems such as post traumatic stress disorder and shock.

Garrett Martin, deputy director of the Royal College of Nursing for Northern Ireland, said: “It’s not acceptable. Under no circumstances should these assaults be seen as an occupational hazard.

“These figures are staggering, in many ways not surprising, but they are still staggering.

“To think that 19 incidents per day are being recorded across the hospitals in Northern Ireland is a great cause for concern.”

During the same period, 138 sexual assaults were recorded against staff working for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust while 97 incidents of sexual abuse were recorded by the Western Trust.

Mr Martin said: “It’s abhorrent to think nursing staff who are trying to do their best for their patients, and for the public, are subject to such levels of sexual abuse.

“It’s totally unacceptable and more needs to be done to ensure that it’s not tolerated.

“It really is something that, when you see the figures in black and white, highlights the level of abuse and assaults on staff, particularly those of a sexual nature.”

Assaults recorded at each trust

Belfast Trust: 10,663

South Eastern Trust: 10,266

Southern Trust: 6,952

Western Trust: 4,096

Northern Trust: 2,396

Mr Martin, on why assaults were occurring at such a high rate, said: “The reasons for staff being assaulted are complex.

“The nature of those being assaulted in an emergency department would be very different than those carried out in a mental health unit or a ward where patients have delirium or dementia for example.

“But, there is no doubt about it, one of the factors and one of the reasons is the lack of safe levels of staffing in certain wards and departments. That will impact on this and have a negative impact on the incidents. It isn’t acceptable.”

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