1,300 assaults on NHS Lothian staff in a year

Over 1,300 incidents of physical and verbal abuse towards NHS Lothian staff have been reported in a year, new figures show.
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In the 12 months to the end of October 2021, some 1,071 incidents of physical assault were recorded towards NHS Lothian staff, alongside 266 reports of verbal abuse.

The health board has a “zero tolerance” approach to assault, a spokesperson said, and urged staff to report incidents.

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In the same period 7,271 incidents of physical assault were logged across all mainland health boards, alongside 5,496 reports of verbal abuse or threats, according to figures obtained by the Evening News under the Freedom of Information Act.

Photo by Andrew Milligan - WPA Pool/Getty ImagesPhoto by Andrew Milligan - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Photo by Andrew Milligan - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The Scottish Ambulance Service also recorded 146 physical assaults and 113 incidents of verbal abuse,

Several health boards also recorded other types of abuse separately, including bullying, harassment, hate crime and sexual assault.

While the above figures refer only to abuse directed at staff from patients, other incidents were recorded from other staff and family members of patients.

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Janis Butler, Director of HR at NHS Lothian, said the health board has a zero tolerance approach.

She said: “We have 32,761 staff working in sites across West Lothian, East Lothian, Edinburgh and Midlothian and we expect all of our employees to be able to deliver health care in an environment free from violence, intimidation and aggression.

"We have a zero-tolerance approach to abusive behaviour towards any of our colleagues or volunteers and we encourage employees to report any event of this type to allow us to investigate further and have a robust system for the reporting and monitoring of incidents.

"Staff also have access to specific training to equip them with the skills and competence to deal with and de-escalate difficult situations and avoid harm."

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NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said there were 2,479 assaults and threats in that health board alone in the first six months of 2021, with almost 100 attacks following in the first eight days of August.

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“Staff continue to work tirelessly to ensure patients and service users receive the best care, against the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, but are being subjected to both verbal and physical abuse, while simply trying to do their jobs,” a spokesperson said.

They added: "Our staff come to work to help people, support patients and their families, deliver vital care and save lives.

"All we ask is that visitors, patients and service users treat our staff with respect to allow us to continue to care for those needing medical attention in a safe and comfortable workspace.

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"We would like to thank the thousands of people who use our services and treat our exceptional staff with the respect they deserve. We urge the minority who behave in an aggressive or violent way to do the same.”

Several health boards noted that many incidents of abuse are linked to patients with complex conditions.

A spokesperson for NHS Grampian said that incidences of violence and aggression against staff are “generally due to an underlying clinical condition meaning that the person may have little control over their behaviour”.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “Our staff should not have to fear for their safety when treating patients and keeping them safe is of paramount importance to us”.

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