Measures are being taken to protect doctors and nurses from aggressive patients at Noble's Hospital.
The Department of Health and Social Care says it has a zero tolerance approach to violence. It follows the conviction of a patient who attacked two members of staff while under the influence of drugs.
But the department has also taken the opportunity to highlight that recent figures would place Noble's Hospital as amongst the 16 safest acute hospitals in England. There were 16 cases of physical assault between April 2012 and March 2013, with 12 of these caused by elderly patients outside of A&E who were confused or suffering from dementia. Three of the attacks were in A&E.
Health services political member Dudley Butt MLC said: 'Even just one physical assault is one too many and we take the concerns of staff extremely seriously and work closely with unions on staff safety.'
All staff have been issued with personal alarms and panic buttons are being installed in A&E. Mr Butt said a 'business case' was being developed to upgrade the A&E CCTV system.
He said: 'Whilst wholly unacceptable behaviour, we can be grateful that incidents of physical assault on hospital staff are rare. In fact Noble’s Hospital has one of the lowest rates for staff assaults when compared to other acute hospitals in England; but we are not being complacent and additional measures to improve safety for staff, in A&E in particular, have already been put in place, with more to follow.
'Patients who are violent are often intoxicated from the use of alcohol or drugs, and this is the root cause of their violent behaviour. It is not that people are purposefully presenting at A&E with the intention of causing trouble. That said, anyone attending A&E needs to remember that they are responsible for their own behaviour and that being intoxicated is no excuse for violence. The vast majority of patients attending A&E for treatment – 32,915 between April 2012 and March 2013 – are polite, courteous and deeply appreciative of the assistance and care our staff provide.
'The message is clear – unacceptable behaviour ranging from verbal abuse, to threatening behaviour, to actual physical assault will simply not be tolerated.'
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