NHS bosses have pledged to enforce a “zero tolerance” approach to violence after assaults on staff were slammed as “disgraceful.”
The majority of the 1,300 assaults in central Lancashire’s health services involved Lancashire Care Trust staff. Of the 1,200 incidents recorded, 850 involved ‘medical factors’ which may have made patients lash out.
Some 20 people faced criminal proceedings and 41 underwent ‘civil or administrative sanctions.’
NHS Protect, which looks at staff security, has announced a new partnership with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Crown Prosecution Service to better protect staff in NHS mental health settings.
The organisation’s Richard Hampton said: “It is designed to help the NHS, police and CPS work together to respond to incidents of crime, investigate and take appropriate cases forward for prosecution in this sector.”
One nurse who works for Lancashire Care said she was attacked by a patient who was distressed and didn’t understand why she was in hospital.
Often the aggression and violence is not directed at the individual, it’s just the person who’s there
The nurse said: “We were trying to explain why she was there and she grabbed me by my hair and was moving my head from side to side.
“She was very distressed and upset.”
The nurse was able to pull her alarm, and colleagues helped to “de-escalate” the situation and stop any more damage.
She said: “Often the aggression and violence is not directed at the individual, it’s just the person who’s there.
“It’s not personal, it’s directed at the way they feel at the time.
“I think it’s the level of distress that the person is experiencing at that moment in time. “I think the more time you spend with them, the more you learn what upsets them.
“I’ve never been in a position where I’ve felt it was directed at me.”
Matt Joyes, associate director of patient safety and quality governance at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The Trust takes the safety of staff and patients extremely seriously and over recent years has been working to increase awareness and promote an understanding of the appropriate safety measures to keep people safe.
“Violence and aggression towards staff is not tolerated and the Trust works closely with partners such as the police to ensure that incidents are dealt with and learned from to prevent them from reoccurring.
“The Trust provides training for staff in violence reduction which provides practical tools to address threats and deal with instances in a safe and appropriate way.
“This includes ways to work with patients in order to identify opportunities during their care to help them manage their anger and prevent violent incidents from occurring.
“The Trust promotes an open and honest culture and encourages the reporting of any incidents that put the safety of staff or patients at risk.
“Traditionally Trusts that provide mental health services do report a higher number of physical assaults on staff than acute hospital Trusts and this can contribute towards an increase in the number of incidents recorded.”
Nationally, there were 67,864 reported physical assaults against NHS staff in England in 2014-15, a small reduction of 819 from 68,683 in 2013-14.
Chancellor George Osborne this week pledged an extra £600m for mental health services.
‘We want all our staff to feel supported, protected and safe’
NHS bosses respond:
Karen Sanderson. local security manager for blackpool teaching hospitals nhs foundation trust:
“We work closely with our staff to encourage them to report all issues around assaults, both verbal and physical.
“We actively promote incident reporting and have embedded this into our induction process.
“We have a zero tolerance approach to assaults against staff members and want all our staff to feel supported, protected and safe.
“While the Trust takes a very serious view of attacks on staff, most are carried out without any intent and many occur because of medical conditions.
“The presence of dedicated security officers at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, who provide 24-hour cover, makes a significant contribution towards a reduced number of security incidents and the officers have been instrumental in providing a safe and secure environment for patients, staff and visitors.”
A spokesman from North West Ambulance Service (NWAS):
“Our ambulance crews work extremely hard to help people and save lives and it is disgraceful that so many of them are subject to unprovoked assaults.
“The Trust takes a zero tolerance approach to any form of abuse. We will always support our staff to report any violence or aggression towards them and encourage them to press charges against those who have caused them harm to ensure appropriate action is taken against the perpetrator.
“Attacks can come from patients, their family and friends and even those who are not directly involved in the incidents our staff are called to attend.
“Our staff do not deserve to be treated this way and these acts can result in less resources on the road to respond to those who are in the most urgent need of our help.”
Jim Lloyd, security manager Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust:
“We are firmly of the view that all those who work in or provide services to the NHS have the right to do so without fear of violence or abuse.
“We have a zero tolerance policy towards any violence or aggression directed at staff and we will take whatever action we feel appropriate to ensure the safety of our patients, visitors and staff.
“We expect people visiting our hospitals to behave appropriately and treat our staff and anyone else as they would wish to be treated.
“Our staff are used to caring for patients whose behaviour may be unpredictable and violent due to medication or illness.
“Staff are trained to de-escalate tense situations and in those circumstances, minimise the risk of injury to themselves and the patient.”