Northern Ireland news

Attacks on nursing staff 'unacceptable' as more than 6,000 reported in a year

Nurses are being urged to report abuse to management
Seanín Graham

MORE than 6,000 nurses employed across Northern Ireland's health trusts were attacked in their workplace last year.

New figures show a total of 6,651 healthcare staff - including 97 doctors and 6,138 nurses - reported the abuse.

The Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) for the north, Charlotte McArdle, said any form of attack on nurses and other healthcare workers is "totally unacceptable".

The biggest number of offences took place in the Belfast trust area, where there were almost 4,000 attacks on nurses alone.

A total of 800 attacks were reported in the Western health trust, 542 in the South Eastern trust, a further 452 in the Northern trust area and 395 in the Southern Trust.

The CNO said she was "appalled" to think that people who dedicate themselves to caring for others and saving lives are being subjected to verbal or physical abuse within their place of work.

Ms McArdle said she wanted to ensure that staff, the public and patients are "safeguarded from violent and antisocial behaviour".

"These experiences have a hugely negative impact on their performance at work as well as physical and mental health of healthcare staff, and their personal and family relationships. Healthcare workers often express an understanding as to why some people they work with may behave in certain ways, sometimes that’s due to illness but often it’s just unacceptable behaviour," she added.

"People tend to think the majority of these attacks occur in A&E Departments where alcohol or drug abuse appear to be causal factors. The majority of recorded incidents...are linked to persons with mental health and learning disability rather than any malicious intent.

“Whilst many of these incidents are a direct result of illness, employers need to understand how to meet their responsibilities to employees to fulfil their duty of care and to do that they have to understand particular issues associated with providing care in challenging and complex situations."

Each health trust operates a zero tolerance policy towards abuse of staff.

The CNO urged all healthcare professionals to report physical or abusive behaviour to management.

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