PHYSICAL assaults on Sunderland hospital staff have rocketed over the past year, new figures show.
There were a total of 126 incidents recorded by City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust in 2013/14, compared to just 91 the previous year.
Of the total, 111 assaults were medical-related, meaning the assailants did not know what they were doing when they carried out the attack due to illness, mental ill-health or because of the treatment being administered to them.
Wearside health lead for Unison, Ann Clay, today told the Echo that health chiefs should start looking at the possibility of refusing those who repeatedly assault doctors and nurses.
She said: “I think it could be time that we started red carding some of these people who are drunk and willfully carry out these attacks.
“I think we should be able to refuse to treat certain people who do this on more than one occasion.
Ms Clay added: “The trust should also be taking the hardest stance against the perpetrators, so that staff are protected against this type of behaviour in future.
“One incident is too many, so it’s disappointing to see a rise of more than 30 incidents in the past year.”
A spokesman for City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, which has almost 5,200 staff in total and operates from sites including Sunderland Royal Hospital and Sunderland Eye Infirmary, said: “Of the 126 assaults at the trust during 2013/14, the majority were due to medical reasons and the condition of the patients.
“We do our utmost as a trust to protect our staff with a range of security measures and support, including conflict resolution training.
“We would strongly advise those using our services that we will not tolerate, at any time, abusive or aggressive behaviour towards staff or other patients in our care.
“The trust works closely with the police, justice system, and other local agencies and will not hesitate to support staff, if necessary, in giving evidence against offenders in court.”
Assaults on North East Ambulance Service staff totalled 73, up from 55 in 2012/13.
Elsewhere, assaults on staff at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW), which provides mental health services in Sunderland, were the highest in the country at 3,272.
NTW chief executive John Lawlor said: “As well as providing specialist mental health and disability inpatient and community care across the North East of England, NTW is also home to a number of national and cross-regional specialist services. For example, the Trust has one of only five national adolescent forensic services.
“As a result we care for some of the most mentally distressed people in the whole country, and a large number of these incidents were down to a small number of people.
“The 3,335 assaults involved 489 service users out of a total of 80,051, or half of one per cent. Indeed, three patients were responsible for more than 100 incidents each.
“Explanations aside, we are not complacent. We know that even one assault on a member of staff is one too many.
“By the same token, although around 85 per cent of these incidents resulted in either no injury or only a minor injury being caused that does not mean they are acceptable.”
The national number of criminal sanctions following reported assaults has risen by 191, from 1,458 to 1,649 – a rise of 13.1 per cent.
Overall, there was a rise of 8.7 per cent in total reported assaults from 63,199 in 2012/13 to 68,683 in 2013/14.
Richard Hampton, head of external engagement and services at NHS Protect, said: “No NHS staff should be physically assaulted and we encourage staff who are victims of violence to press charges against assailants.
“Those who work in the NHS have the right to provide care in a safe environment.
“Employers must do all they can to support staff in preventing incidents and pursuing offenders.”