1,000 Assaults On Belfast Health Staff

There have been demands for extra security measures at hospitals after it emerged more than 1,000 assaults were launched on hospital staff in Belfast last year.

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Assemblyman Jimmy Spratt said they had a duty to protect doctors and nurses facing an onslaught of actual and verbal abuse. The worst figures were returned by north and west Belfast.

“I would call on the Health Minister Michael McGimpsey to assess existing security provisions in place and examine any possible measures to improve safety within hospitals,” the South Belfast representative said. “Hospital staff are invaluable to the welfare of the public and should at all times feel safe at work, free from the fear of physical or verbal assault.”

There were 1,427 incidents in Belfast, 1080 physical, in the year ending March 2007. These can include punching, attacking with weapons to foul language and threats.

Royal College of Nurses deputy director Janice Smyth said: “These figures bear out the unacceptable levels of violence and abuse to which nurses and other health workers across Northern Ireland are being subjected. The RCN has been working for some time with the DHSSPS and others in addressing this issue but it is up to the DHSSPS to give a decisive lead and demonstrate clearly that it is determined to deal with these appalling levels of violence.”

Mr McGimpsey has said he intends to legislate on the issue. Ms Smyth added the chief executives of trusts should publish copies of policies for recording violent attacks and ensure perpetrators are reported to police. She also called for a set of standards defining the rights of health care workers to practice in a safe environment as well as more resources for training in managing offenders.