Health Worker Attacks ‘Top 5,000’

More than 5,000 attacks on health workers in Northern Ireland have taken place in the last year, a doctors’ organisation has claimed. The BMA NI Council’s Dr Brian Patterson was speaking as they launched a survey to gauge the level and nature of violence against staff. “Attacks on, threats to, and verbal abuse of doctors and other health-care workers have to stop,” he said. “Urgent action is needed to halt this totally unacceptable situation.”

All doctors are being asked to provide information on the extent and type of violence they have experienced in their workplaces. Dr Patterson said they were launching the campaign as a policy on such attacks would not be in place in Northern Ireland until next April at the earliest.

“It’s only when people realise they’ll face a custodial sentence if they attack doctors and other health-care workers that an end will be in sight,” he added.

And a Belfast GP has been speaking about how an attack by a patient in 2003 stopped him from making out-of-hours calls for 18 months for fear of further attacks.

Dr Michael McKenna said the patient, who is now in prison, threatened that he would kill him or somebody else. “He lifted up my briefcase and tried to hit me over the head with it. Then he went out of the house and jumped on the bonnet of my car and kicked in my windscreen.”

Dr McKenna said a register of violent patients should be set up. He called for more funding for other security measures such as the installation of panic alarms in all GP surgeries and access to fast police response.