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Biting, punches and racial abuse: Report reveals violence against Shropshire NHS staff

By Dominic Robertson | Shrewsbury | Health | Published:

Hospital workers in the county have faced an increasing number of intentionally violent and aggressive incidents over the past year, although the total number of security incidents has fallen.

Hundreds of attacks have been recorded at Shropshire hospitals including Telford’s PRH and Shrewsbury’s RSH

The situation facing workers at Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust, which manages Princess Royal Hospital Telford and Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, has been outlined in a report to the organisation’s board.

It shows that for 2018/19 total security incidents at the two hospitals fell to 641, from 671.

However, incidents classed as “intentionally violent and aggressive” saw a small rise from 111 to 114.

Biting and punching

The details of some of the situations faced by hospital staff have also been revealed, and make for harrowing reading.

In one, where the offender has spent nearly 17 months in jail as a result, “a well-built” 24-year-old man who had arrived at RSH in an ambulance launched repeated attacks on staff – biting, punching and head butting them.

The man, who was “heavily over dosed”, had approached an 85-year-old female patient with dementia, and made repeated attempts to get into her cubicle.

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The report states: “Whilst being triaged he launched an unprovoked physical attack at staff. One security officer was momentarily knocked unconscious.

"The patient undertook repeated attacks on security staff with fists, biting and head butting whilst making attempts to re-enter the area of A&E where the female patient was.

“The patient was arrested and transferred to PRH A&E, seven police officers and two hospital security officers were required to see him controlled with body restraints.”

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Racial abuse

Another incident saw a man jailed for 18 months for assault and racial abuse.

The man, who has the liver condition hepatitis, had deliberately bitten the inside of his mouth before spitting at an RSH A&E nurse and a security guard – some spittle landed in the nurse’s mouth.

The report states: “Efforts to restrain the man failed when he turned on the hospital team trying to treat him for a drug over dose.

"He verbally abused staff using racist language towards staff throughout the incident. It was believed he had overdosed on medication that could have proved fatal if not treated.”

In another terrifying incident a worker was locked in a store room with a drug addict demanding methadone.

The man was jailed for four weeks as a result.

The report states: “He forced his way into the clean utility room, the door to which hadn’t quite closed as a member of staff left the room. Another staff member was still in the room.

The patient stated “I am not going to do anything to you, however I am not letting you out of the room”.

The man locked the door and stood between the staff member and the door continuing to demand methadone to staff outside.

Security

Of the reported 114 intentional violence and aggression incidents in 2018-19, 56 occurred at RSH, 57 at PRH and one off-site, but involved staff.

Of those 38 involved physical contact – however minor or inconsequential, 23 were on staff – one of which involved staff on staff, and 15 were by patients or relatives (public) on the same.

The report says that the trust’s policies on security have helped to cut down on the number of incidents at the hospitals.

It states: “Reported/recorded instances of anti-social behaviour / intentional violence and aggression in 2018-19 are nearly 14 per cent less than for 2015-16. This despite an unusually high number of incidents in the reporting year involving just patients or public – i.e. they were both perpetrator and victim with no staff involvement.

“A safe environment for staff and patients continues to develop through the rigid application of our policy and stance on tackling violence and aggression.

"Use of warning letters and other administrative sanction by the trust has ensured meaningful sanction and redress has taken place in response to incidents, however inconsequential the perpetrator may have deemed their actions to be – e.g. verbal threats to staff, use of expletives and/or comments that were racist in tone.

“This has limited re-offending. In the reporting period 66 warning letters and/or letters of concern were issued. Only four of those receiving our initial warning letter during the period have since been reported as being involved in further incident.

“By the same token during just this reporting year the Courts have handed out prison sentences amounting to over 3 years to individuals found guilty of more serious and inexcusable aggression towards staff.”

The report was being discussed by the trust’s board members today.

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