‘Older people commit majority of assaults on hospital staff’ – says NHS trust chief executive

Lister Hospital

Lister Hospital - Credit: Archant

The majority of physical assaults against NHS hospital staff are committed by older people suffering from dementia.

This is according to Nick Carver, chief executive of the East and North Herts NHS Trust – which runs Lister Hospital in Stevenage – following the release of figures by NHS Protect, the security management service for the NHS.

According to NHS Protect, 124 physical assaults on NHS staff were reported in 2012/13, with just two not involving medical factors. This compares to 127 reported physical assaults in 2011/12, when three did not involve medical factors.

Nationally, acute trusts averaged 21 assaults per 1,000 NHS staff in 2012/13, compared to 23 per 1,000 at the East and North Herts NHS Trust.

Mr Carver said: “The vast majority of these assaults are caused by people whose medical condition, state of mind or treatment means they are unaware of what they are doing or that it was wrong.

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“In the main, these are older people suffering from some form of dementia – they don’t mean to harm anyone, it’s just part of their condition.

“While our staff are trained especially to support patients with dementia, sometimes problems can arise that result in a report of physical abuse needing to be made, but we do understand this is a consequence of the patient’s condition and not their intent.

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“So for the whole of 2012/13, there were just two reported assaults by a member of the public who intentionally sought to harm one of our staff.

“These are the cases, no matter how rare in reality, where we will always seek the involvement of the police as our staff deserve to be able to care for their patients without the fear someone will assault them out of malice.”

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