The Department of Health and Social Care is reminding the public that it has a zero tolerance approach to violence and aggression towards any of its staff. The move follows the conviction of a patient who attended Accident and Emergency (A&E) at Noble’s Hospital last year and went on to assault two members of staff whilst experiencing hallucinations under the influence of drugs.
Commenting on the issue, Dudley Butt MLC, Member for Health Services said: “The Department takes the safety of staff extremely seriously and endeavours to ensure a safe working environment. There is a zero tolerance approach to violence and aggression against staff and where assaults do occur we work with the police to prosecute individuals where necessary.
“Security and safety for staff dealing with patients who are intoxicated is an important issue for the Minister. Even just one physical assault is one too many and we take the concerns of staff extremely seriously and work closely with unions on staff safety.”
Despite the incident, Noble’s Hospital has one of the lowest rates of violence against staff when compared to acute hospitals in England, with 16 cases of physical assault recorded between April 2012 and March 2013, three of which were in A&E. Twelve of these were caused by elderly patients outside of A&E who were either confused or suffer from dementia. The figures would place Noble’s Hospital amongst the 16 safest acute hospitals in England in terms of assaults on staff, out of a total of 161.
A review of staff security in A&E has been undertaken and further safety measures put in place, with all staff issued with personal alarms. Panic buttons are also being installed in A&E and a business case is being developed to upgrade the A&E CCTV system.
Noble’s Hospital has a detailed Violence and Aggression Policy and works to actively prevent incidents. There are posters advising patients on acceptable behaviour. Staff are fully trained in techniques to deal with situations of aggression. The hospital’s Portering and Security Team is on hand 24 hours a day and staff have been fully and professionally trained in control and restraint techniques to UK Home Office standards. The hospital also has a close working relationship with the Isle of Man Constabulary in dealing with incidents of assault and aggressive behaviour.
Mr Butt continued: “It is important that this incident is placed in context. Whilst wholly unacceptable behaviour, we can be grateful that incidents of physical assault on hospital staff are rare. In fact Noble’s Hospital has one of the lowest rates for staff assaults when compared to other acute hospitals in England; but we are not being complacent and additional measures to improve safety for staff, in A&E in particular, have already been put in place, with more to follow.
“Patients who are violent are often intoxicated from the use of alcohol or drugs, and this is the root cause of their violent behaviour. It is not that people are purposefully presenting at A&E with the intention of causing trouble. That said, anyone attending A&E needs to remember that they are responsible for their own behaviour and that being intoxicated is no excuse for violence. The vast majority of patients attending A&E for treatment – 32,915 between April 2012 and March 2013 – are polite, courteous and deeply appreciative of the assistance and care our staff provide.
“The message is clear – unacceptable behaviour ranging from verbal abuse, to threatening behaviour, to actual physical assault will simply not be tolerated.”