May 31, 2012

Scottish MP calls for change following increase in abuse of NHS staff in Scotland

Figures obtained by the Sunday Express showing that working in healthcare in Scotland is becoming increasingly dangerous have prompted Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw MSP and Unison's lead officer for nursing to call for change.

Mr Carlaw said: “As a society we’ve got to say it is unacceptable and we’ve got to be prepared, however difficult it is, to use the full force of the law to set an example.

“Too often we have been too understanding of those doing the abuse and not understanding enough of the trauma it creates to those who have been abused. That balance has got to change.

“We really need to make examples of offenders and can’t afford to continue with the soft-touch approach. If we don’t do that, we run the risk of people concluding this is not somewhere they wish to work.”

Figures obtained by the Sunday Express using Freedom of Information legislation show the number of serious incidents appears to have increased over the past three years. The Express reports the following:

  • Abusive patients are causing employees to take over 300 days a year off work to recover.
  • Last year Borders District General Hospital called the police on 168 occasions compared to just 40 the year before.
  • During the first three months of this year, staff in Ayrshire and Arran dealt with threats seven times a day on average. Hospital personnel recorded more than 2,500 incidents of violence, abuse and harassment last year, with police called in at least 192 times.
  • NHS Lothian told the Express that in the last seven months of 2011 every one of its eight hospitals dealt with abusive individuals on a number of occasions.
  • The most violent – the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary at Little France and the Western General – needed the help of police or security on 23 occasions

Bridget Hunter, Unison’s lead officer for nursing, said “We have concerns about staffing levels and think there is a correlation between the number of incidents and number of staff on duty. There is also a change in our society and what people believe they can get away with. When you raise these concerns, people think it is just part and parcel of your job… but nobody gets paid enough to be beaten up at work.

“I don’t believe this should be tolerated in any way. There should be a very strong message that abuse and violence will not be tolerated anymore and those responsible will be prosecuted.”

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