Beaten, spat at, and punched: Sunderland hospital workers’ abuse torment revealed

Sunderland Royal Hospital Accident and Emergency Department (A&E)
Sunderland Royal Hospital Accident and Emergency Department (A&E)
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AN Echo investigation has uncovered the catalogue of abuse suffered by city hospital workers.

Staff at Sunderland Royal Hospital are beaten, spat at, threatened, grabbed and punched as they try to carry out their work.

Figures obtained by the Echo reveal 315 verbal and physical attacks have been recorded by City Hospitals Sunderland since January last year.

Of these, 224 related to incidents of verbal abuse, usually due to alcohol-fuelled patients in the hospitals’ Accident and Emergency department, while 91 were physical assaults.

Hospital and union bosses today condemned the attacks and said all NHS staff should be free to work in a safe and secure environment.

Concerns have also been raised that as the city’s A&E department comes under greater pressure, numbers of attacks will rise as frustrations turn to violence.

One nurse, who asked not to be named, described how she was pushed and threatened by a drunken yob who she had asked to calm down.

She said: “He got right up to my face.

“I could smell the alcohol on his breath, he was screaming at me and I could feel saliva hitting me.

“I just kept asking him to settle down, but his chest was pushing against mine and I felt pretty intimidated because he was a big guy.

“His partner calmed him down in the end but when I went home the next day, I was still shaking.”

Glen Turp, northern regional director for the Royal College of Nursing, said: “A lot of the problems are exacerbated by alcohol and drug usage. They do tend to be incidents of verbal abuse, often made worse due to waiting times.

“This issue is of huge concern to us and we actively encourage all types of abuse to be reported to police so they can be dealt with through legal channels.”

Of the 91 physical attacks recorded, the majority – 80 – were classed as “clinical” incidents, where patients, often with dementia, strokes and confusion nip, scratch or slap staff.

A spokesman for City Hospitals Sunderland said: “Patients and relatives are constantly reminded of their responsibility to observe good behaviour when on Trust premises. Bad behaviour which is not attributable to medical conditions will not be tolerated.

“Trust security staff work closely with the police to maintain the highest possible standards of behaviour and will not hesitate to support staff in helping the authorities to gain prosecution of offenders through the courts.

“A number of well established support services are provided for staff, including a yellow and red card system for offenders, personal alarms, speedy reporting systems and counselling.”

Police are on patrol in the A&E department on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

City Hospitals Sunderland confirmed that during the past two years, 206 physical assaults on staff had been recorded and a further 428 verbal attacks.