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NI healthcare staff face 5,500 attacks in six months

Campaign launched to help stem rise of ‘beyond intolerable’ attacks


Four out of every five incidents reported were physical attacks.

Four out of every five incidents reported were physical attacks.

Peter McNaney, chair of the HSC Chairs’ Forum

Peter McNaney, chair of the HSC Chairs’ Forum


Four out of every five incidents reported were physical attacks.

Sexual assaults, spitting, kicking and scratching were among the 5,500 attacks on healthcare staff over a six-month period, it has emerged.

Health officials across Northern Ireland have come together to launch a campaign to reduce violence against hard-pressed NHS staff as they revealed violence against workers is up in some cases by more than 20%.

In an unprecedented move, the 17 chairs of Northern Ireland’s health bodies and the Fire and Rescue Service last night issued a statement calling on politicians and the public to throw their weight behind the Support our Staff campaign.

It comes as available data suggests there were over 5,500 attacks on staff reported in the six months up to March this year. The vast majority of these attacks over 80% were classified as physical.

Peter McNaney, chair of the HSC Chairs’ Forum, said: “We are appalled by the increase in the levels of violence towards staff who are already exhausted and continuing to care for people in very difficult conditions. This is beyond intolerable.

“There are a wide range of social factors that contribute to this issue and this will require a multiagency response including courts, policing, and the voluntary community sector.”

Mr McNaney said while the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland have recognised the extraordinary efforts of health and social care staff, every attack on workers is too many.

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“We have heard too many reports of ambulance staff facing intimidation, receptionists at hospitals receiving verbal abuse, and doctors and nurses being threatened and even physically assaulted,” he said. “In the Ambulance Service alone, over 600 incidents of violence and aggression towards staff were recorded in the last year.

“In my own Trust in Belfast, we recorded over 2,500 physical assaults over a six-month period a 21% increase on the previous year.”

Eileen Mullan, chair of the Southern HSC Trust, said: ““This issue goes beyond the trust many staff are impacted GPs, practice staff, dental, pharmacy and ophthalmology employees have all been subjected to rising levels of unacceptable verbal and physical abuse, which has resulted in some cases to staff resigning from their posts.

“Our staff should never have to encounter abuse or physical harm, and we unequivocally condemn this behaviour.

“Whilst we recognise the genuine frustration of those waiting too long for care, we call on the public to support our health and social care staff, who are seeking to provide the best care possible in the circumstances.”

Health Minister Robin Swann last night appealed to the public to show respect to all healthcare workers: “Unfortunately we are seeing a rise in numbers of attacks and we must all as a society reject such despicable behaviour and protect our frontline staff and services. They are already facing unprecedented pressures and need our support more than ever.”

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