'It's a real insult' - Healthcare staff in the Lothians attacked more than 1,300 times by patients last year

NHS staff attacked on average four times a day in the Lothians

Friday, 3rd January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 3rd January 2020, 7:40 am
NHS Lothian staff were attacked more than 1,300 times last year (Photo: TSPL)

Doctors, nurses and paramedics were attacked more than 1,300 times by patients in 2018/19, new analysis of figures from NHS Lothian show.

The numbers of attacks on NHS staff average just under four attacks a day in hospitals and doctor’s surgeries across the region.

NHS Lothian said staff have access to relevant training around violence, and highlighted the drop in overall figures in the last few years while the Scottish Government said they were “absolutely unacceptable”.

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Conservative MSP Miles Briggs

However the figures also show a downward trend in the overall number of assaults, with 700 fewer incidents last year compared to a high of 2,135 in 2012/13, and a drop of 400 compared to 2017/18.

Figures are a 'real insult'

National analysis, undertaken by the Scottish Conservatives, shows only 1.5 per cent of physical assaults on NHS staff lead to a conviction, with up to 12 months in jail or a hefty fine the punishment.

Miles Briggs MSP, the Conservative’s shadow health secretary, said the figures are a “real insult” to healthcare workers.

He said: “It would be unrealistic to expect all reports of NHS assaults to end up in the courtroom.

“But the fact just 1.5 per cent of physical assaults result in a conviction is a real insult to our brave healthcare workers.”

Mr Briggs added that the government must send a “clear message” against verbal and physical abuse.

He added: “Progress on tackling violence against NHS staff will never be made unless we start getting tough on those responsible for it.

“NHS Lothian staff take care of everyone who comes through their doors and we must send a clear message that verbal aggression and physical violence will not be tolerated.”

Staff encouraged to report incidents

NHS Lothian’s nurse director, Professor Alex McMahon, said the healthcare provider encourages employees to report any instance of violence to allow for further investigation.

He said: “In NHS Lothian we expect all of our employees to be able to deliver health care in an environment free from violence, intimidation and aggression.

“Our staff have access to specific training to equip them with the skills and competence to deal with and de-escalate difficult situations and avoid harm.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Any violence or aggression against NHS staff is absolutely unacceptable and we have made clear that boards should take appropriate action against those responsible.

“These figures cover a wide range of incidents and the conviction statistics relate only to prosecutions under the Emergency Workers Act, therefore excluding where serious attacks on staff may have been prosecuted using other offences such as assault, which allow for lengthier sentences.

“Police will investigate any allegation of criminal behaviour reported to them and, where appropriate, submit a report to the Procurator Fiscal who makes decisions about prosecutions.

“Where a prosecution proceeds, the Court will determine in each case whether or not there should be a conviction based on all the facts before them.”