NHS staff face growing violence in east London’s hospitals

The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. Picture: Barts NHS Trust

The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. Picture: Barts NHS Trust - Credit: Barts NHS Trust

Violence against staff at east London hospitals is on the rise, new figures reveal.

There were 331 assaults against staff at the five Barts Health hospitals from April 2018 to March 2019 - 60 per cent more than the 12 months from April 2015, which saw only 206.

This April to June has been the most violent over the past five years, with 98 recorded assaults. In 2018 there were 84 over the same period and only 50 during that period in 2017.

The figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request by this paper, revealed that Newham Hospital has seen 231 assaults since April 2015, Mile End saw 22 and St Bartholomew's saw 89.

By far the worst hospital in the five-year period for assaults was the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. It had 504 incidents.

Newham Hospital's Accident and Emergency Unit. Picture: Luke Acton.

Newham Hospital's Accident and Emergency Unit. Picture: Luke Acton. - Credit: Luke Acton

That's almost double the amount seen at the next worse hospital, Whipps Cross in Waltham Forest, which had 258 assaults.

The Royal London is easily the biggest hospital, with 845 beds at the end of 2018, according to Barts Health FoI data. Whipps Cross had 679.

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A Barts Health spokeswoman said abusive or violent behaviour will not be tolerated, adding that staff safety is a top priority.

Training is available to them, focusing on identifying aggressive behaviour, personal safety, de-escalation and conflict resolution.

The spokeswoman said security personnel are at all five hospitals 24 hours a day and support is available to staff if they face violence or aggression.

"Our staff deserve to be treated with respect, and patients or visitors who behave violently or aggressively may be issued with a formal warning," she said.

"If the behaviour continues, the trust will actively seek criminal or civil proceedings."

Barts Health is one of the largest NHS trusts in England, with 16,000 staff, operating five hospitals and providing care for 2.5 million people in Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest and the City of London.

Violence against NHS staff is a national issue, with former health secretary Matt Hancock trying to address it last year with the first ever NHS violence reduction strategy.

It included working with prosecutors to speed-up the trial process and having health watchdog the Care Quality Commission look at violence in their inspections.