Violence To Health And NIFRS Staff Is Unacceptable

Health Minister condemns abuse of HSC and Fire and Rescue staff

Health Minister condemns abuse of HSC and Fire and Rescue staff

  • 134 attacks on staff in November 2021 at the South Eastern HSC Trust hospitals are up by a third since April.

Health Minister Robin Swann supports the call by Northern Ireland’s health bodies and the Fire and Rescue Service to push back against abuse and violence of HSC staff.

In an unusual move the chairs of the health bodies and the Fire and Rescue Service have issued a joint call for the public and for politicians to support staff following increases in levels of violence against staff.

Down News has learned that nurses and doctors in hospital in Northern Ireland have often been punched and slapped and had equipment thrown at them and suffered verbal abuse. One doctor said that “it was often much worse at the weekend when the patients have been drinking alcohol.”

Ambulance and medical staff across Northern Ireland including members of the Fire and Rescue Service are facing higher levels of abuse. (Photo by Jim Masson/Down News).

Health Minister Swann said: “As Minister, I take the issue of abuse towards staff extremely seriously. Everyone has the right to feel safe from the threat of violence and aggression in the workplace.  Staff spend their working days caring for others and saving lives, and their safety should be paramount.  It is wholly unacceptable that they should be abused or attacked in the course of their duties.”

Available data suggests there were over 5,500 attacks on staff reported in the 6 months to March 2021; The vast majority of these attacks (over 80%) are classified as physical.

A spokesperson for the South Eastern HSC Trust said: “The South Eastern HSC Trust operates a Zero Tolerance of Abuse of Staff policy and signage is in place across Trust sites.

“There is a dedicated security response available at the Ulster,  Lagan Valley and Downe Hospitals.

“Statistics in relation to monthly recorded incidents across the South Eastern HSC Trust hospitals from April 2021 which includes verbal and psychological abuse and physical contact are as follows:

The Minister added: “I am committed to reducing the risk of violence and aggression wherever possible and creating a safe environment for staff, patients and others who use the services. 

“Unfortunately we are seeing a rise in numbers of attacks and we must all as a society reject such despicable behaviour and protect our frontline staff and services.  They are already facing unprecedented pressures and need our support now more than ever.”

Each HSC Trust currently operates a local Zero Tolerance on Abuse of Staff Policy and whilst it is recognised that incidents of an aggressive or violent nature cannot be fully eliminated by policy alone, this provides a means to manage and minimise the risk to employees.

The policies aim to ensure that all staff are aware of, and are protected from, as far as is reasonably practical, violent or potentially violent situations that may occur within Trust facilities and/or whilst staff are on duty.

Trusts have established a regional Zero Tolerance Task and Finish Group which has been working in collaboration with a range of key stakeholders to develop a regional Managing Violence and Aggression policy framework.