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Are NHS staff safe at work?

26th February 2007

The BBC has revealed that violence within UK hospitals is so rife it is costing the NHS more than £100m a year.

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In Monday’s Panorama programme, examples of the types of abuse suffered by NHS staff were exposed.  Cases of nurses and doctors being punched and stabbed were revealed in the documentary which collaborated with hospitals in Birmingham and Edinburgh to make the programme.  It is estimated that 75,000 NHS staff members were attacked last year, costing the NHS millions of pounds in extra security, absenteeism, training of staff and legal bills.  However, a senior consultant at Heartlands Hospital said he felt sure the official figures represented “the very small tip of a very large iceberg.?

Panorama also revealed that despite the government and the NHS's zero tolerance policy towards violence against staff, less than 2% of attacks on staff result in prosecutions.  Healthcare workers say most abuse is not reported because staff members do not trust that anything will be done.

The BBC One programme highlighted the case of convicted rapist and kidney dialysis patient Donald Gibson, who had previously served nine months in prison for abusing nursing staff at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.   Since his release, his violence against staff has continued to the extent that the hospital has spent £42,000 on building a special room in which to give him dialysis.

A spokesperson for the NHS Security Management Service said there had been a reduction in violence against NHS staff and an increase in prosecutions of those who assault them. He added that around 250,000 members of staff had so far received specialist training to deal with abuse at work.

 

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