NHS staff in the West Midlands are facing a rising risk of being attacked while trying to treat patients, according to new figures.
Hospital trusts and the region’s ambulance service reported increases of up to 171 per cent in assaults, with the biggest hike at Birmingham Children’s Hospital where incidents rose from 21 in 2006/07 to 57.
Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Good Hope, Heartlands and Solihull hospitals, saw attacks go up by more than 63 per cent from 119 to 195, while West Midlands Ambulance Service saw assaults rise by 48.4 per cent from 99 to 147.
Alan Taman, a spokesman for the Children’s Hospital, said: “In many cases the assaults happen as a result of dealing with children and young people who have profound mental health issues, who may become aggressive when distressed.
“Our staff are trained to handle this. Although this is not acceptable and is unpredictable it is understandable. Assaults on staff by members of the public are thankfully rare but we will not tolerate violent or abusive behaviour.”
A Heart of England spokesperson added: “We have a reputation for a zero tolerance approach to violence and aggression against staff. To protect staff and patients, a prolonged campaign has been under way for over a year to encourage staff to report these incidents so they can be followed to prosecution where appropriate. This has meant a significant increase in reported incidents and we see that as a sign staff know the trust will take action. The number of incidents has increased since the trust acquired Good Hope hospital last year, and violence at Good Hope has been addressed with the creation of a police office next to the A&E department.”
Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership reported the highest number of attacks, which had fallen from 1,985 to 1,683, while Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals saw no change in the level of violent assaults.
Steve Elliker, regional security specialist and safety manager for West Midlands Ambulance Service, said the trust has made 28 successful prosecutions.
He said: “It is believed the increase in reports may have come about due to work carried out raising awareness of the importance of reporting such incidents.”
Doctors, nurses and paramedics are among those punched, kicked and even threatened with weapons.
The figures produced by the NHS Security Management Services show nationally 55,993 staff were attacked last year – up by 284 on 2006/07.