Herts NHS employee abuse on the rise

Lister Hospital

Lister Hospital - Credit: Archant

NHS employees being abused at work is on the increase in Comet country, with dozens of workers verbally and physically assaulted while on shift this year alone.

Between January and the end of April, there were 38 staff employed by the East and North Herts NHS Trust who were physically assaulted while at work.

It is a 58 per cent increase on the same period the year previously, where 24 staff members working for one of the Trust’s four hospitals, including Lister in Stevenage, were physically harmed.

The figures, obtained by the Comet under the Freedom of Information Act, also show a large increase in verbal abuse.

There was just one complaint in the 2012 January-April period compared to nine in 2013.

Police have also been involved in two incidents this year – up from the one incident in the same 2012 time frame and none in the two years prior to that.

NHS union UNISON labelled the figures “worrying” and feared the numbers could be higher.

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“Many of the statistics aren’t even reported because people don’t always report the pushing and maybe the less serious assaults, which can actually be very upsetting at the time,” said a spokesman.

The number of staff physically harmed at work is also at its highest rate for at least five years, which is the furthest back the figures go.

The Comet had asked for statistics on the number of staff who required medical treatment or home respite after assaults, but the Trust said its figures would not be accurate as many staff did not divulge that information.

It also said the number of cases where staff were abused were “a very small percentage”.

The Trust’s chief executive Nick Carver said: “In the vast majority of cases, patients and their visitors treat our staff with the respect that they deserve. In a small number of cases every year, however, some are less respectful - and if their behaviour becomes abusive, then this will not be tolerated.

“Although the level of abuse experienced by our staff has gone up slightly over recent years, it still represents a very small percentage of the daily interactions between our staff and the patients in their care. That increase is also possibly associated with higher reporting levels as the Trust’s security culture has improved over the years as a result of increased training and awareness amongst our staff, as well as a better relationship with our local police colleagues.”