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Hospital staff facing weekly attacks and abuse

PUBLISHED: 20:19 03 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:04 05 October 2010

HOSPITAL workers in East London are being violently and verbally attacked by patients on a weekly basis. Doctors and nurses have been stabbed with knives and pens, punched, kicked and had their hair pulled. Others, including cleanershave been left traumatised

By Gemma Collins

HOSPITAL workers in East London are being violently and verbally attacked by patients on a weekly basis.

Doctors and nurses have been stabbed with knives and pens, punched, kicked and had their hair pulled.

Others, including cleaners "have been left severely traumatised" after they were threatened, spat at and racially abused as they tried to help sick patients.

Now the public service workers' union is calling for tougher police action to protect staff better.

But most of the abusers are escaping with only one in 10 assaults leading to prosecution, according to latest figures this week.

There were 137 attacks against staff at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel last year alone, including 50 physical assaults, according to Unison public service workers' union.

There were similar attacks on 2006, when staff were subject to 82 assaults and 123 incidents of verbal abuse. That led to only 14 prosecutions.

Staff at the East London mental health trust are also being subjected to abuse on a daily basis.

They are trained to deal with violent patients, but this didn't prevent 413 physical assaults on the 2,500 staff in 2006.

It is only recently that victims have started reporting the attacks instead of putting up with the abuse, according to Unison's regional officer for the hospital and mental health trust Ron Harley.

"No one has been seriously hurt," he says.

"But a number of staff have been left severely traumatised.

"It is difficult for them to get back into work because they worry they will end up back in the same situation. It is not getting any better."

Most attacks are blamed on binge-drinking with the A&E department being the worst affected, particularly on a Saturday night.

Ron added: "Police have always been reluctant to take it seriously and push for court action to be taken.

"But they need to take the issue much more seriously than they have done.

"Patients also need to be clear that if they do abuse hospital staff they will not be treated."

Unison is now working closer with both trusts to try and stem the tide of violence.

The East London NHS Foundation Trust is now training its staff to identify violent patients.

It is also distributing personal alarms and mobile phones in case of an attack.

The Bart's and the London NHS Trust which runs the Royal London, insists that hospital bosses work closely with the police to ensure the safety of staff.

Its security policies are constantly reassessed to identify improvement to suit each hospital.

gemma.collins@archant.co.uk

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