Taskforce To Tackle Welsh NHS Violence

Health Minister Edwina Hart has pledged “zero tolerance” of violence and aggression towards NHS staff in Wales. Unions, who said there were 7,000 cases a year, welcomed a new taskforce to tackle the problem “head on”.

It will investigate how incidents are reported, ways of ensuring action is taken and offer support for staff.

Shadow health spokesman Jonathan Morgan welcomed the statement but said Ms Hart’s stance on violence in the health service was “long overdue”.

Ms Hart told assembly members it was one of the main issues raised with her during recent meetings with health unions and visits to hospitals.

“Violence against, or abuse of, NHS staff is completely unacceptable”, she said.

“The threat of violence not only carries obvious injury and distress to staff and leads to increased sickness absence and poor morale, but it also stops patients getting the vital treatment they need.”

She said the taskforce would include a range of health professional and trade union representatives, including the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The group will work with the police and Crown Prosecution Service and report initial findings within three months.

RCN Wales director Tina Donnelly said she backed the minister’s attempt to deal with “what has become a total unacceptable environment for nurses to work”.

Unison spokesman Dave Galligan said: “At last we can see it (the violence) being taken seriously, there can be no more ignoring the 7,000 plus incidents every year.”

Mr Morgan said he thought the emotional effect of attacks on staff was often overlooked by the NHS.

He said nurses in the acute sector in particular were “too scared to come to work, too emotionally drained and perhaps seeking medical help and support from doctors”.

Mr Morgan added: “We can’t simply afford to lose good people from the NHS so I think supporting them in whatever way we can will be valuable.”

Liberal Democrat AM Kirsty Williams asked whether staff were being given enough training to “scale situations down before they do become violent”.

“The best thing we can do is actually stop violence erupting, if at all possible, in these situations and in dealing with it robustly if it does come to that,” she said.

Plaid Cymru health spokeswoman Helen Mary Jones said she “continued to be shocked by the levels of abuse and violence that are treated as routine in some parts of the NHS”.