Attacks on hospital staff are increasing

Assaults on staff at Northampton General Hospital have increased to more than one a week, new data has revealed.

The figures reveal there were 76 reported assaults against hospital staff in 2007/08 compared with 64 the previous year

The latest statistics include a violent attack on a hospital security officer which resulted in the offender being given a 12-month community order supervision and compensation awarded to his victim.

The hospital said many staff have been attending conflict resolution training (CRT) , which the hospital said was helpful in dealing with potential incidents but could have influenced the number of reports.

Andy Watkins, hospital security manager, said: "The CRT course encourages staff to report assaults, and the extra training we carried out last year may have had an impact on the small increase in reported incidents.

He added: "Clearly our staff make allowances when they deal with patients who, in a confused state, may lash out – but staff believe that deliberate incidents need to be reported, and we fully support that. The trust will not tolerate violence against staff, and action will be taken where appropriate."

The trust is currently working in partnership with the police during NHS Security Awareness Month, helping to advise staff so they understand they do not have to accept abusive behaviour.

Private prosecution, civil action and anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) can be taken out on those who assault or threaten staff.

Reported assaults at the hospital have dropped from 115 in 2004/05, a reduction of more than a third over the last four years.

Nationally, 2007-08 figures show there were 55,993 assaults on NHS staff, of which 10,983 occurred in an acute trust setting similar to NGH.

Karen Jennings, national officer at Unison, said: "The catalogue of assaults is shameful. What sort of injury do we have to wait for before tough action is taken against violent offenders? Health care workers are four times more likely to be the victims of assault than any other workers.

"All-night drinking culture and a lack of respect is fuelling violence against dedicated NHS paramedics, nurses and health staff who need to be given the protection they deserve.

"Zero tolerance should mean zero tolerance. It is terrifying for both patients and staff to be embroiled in the sort of violence and aggression that goes on in city centre A&E departments on an average Saturday night."