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Call for lone working to be kept to a minimum after Ipswich therapist attack

PUBLISHED: 12:22 28 February 2017 | UPDATED: 15:10 28 February 2017

Police at Ipswich Hospital

Police at Ipswich Hospital

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An attack on an Ipswich occupational therapist demonstrates the risks of lone working, an MP has said.

Justin Madders, a shadow health minister, was speaking during a debate about the increasing number of attacks on NHS medical staff.

The Labour MP said that while the focus had been on attacks in accident and emergency, it was clear that assaults occurred in every part of the NHS.

He said the attack on Hayley Simmons in 2015, a senior occupational therapist, demonstrated how the risk of physical assault was higher for staff working alone.

Matthaus Thorpe was made the subject of a hospital order after grabbing Hayley Simmons from behind and squeezing her throat tightly with both hands causing her to lose consciousness

Mr Madders also referred to an East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust staff member who was physically attacked with a claw hammer after being called out alone.

Mr Madders said he wanted to see lone working kept to a minimum. He also said that he supported a campaign for new, specific criminal sanctions for assaults on NHS staff. MPs heard how some patients felt entitled to attack and verbally abuse NHS staff because they have paid their taxes during the debate. Conservative Oliver Dowden (Hertsmere) called for tougher powers to punish people who attack NHS workers, saying he had been “inundated” with examples of aggression towards nurses and doctors who have been spat at, punched and kicked while on duty.

The Westminster Hall debate was prompted by an e-petition to make it a specific criminal offence to attack NHS staff, which has received more than 115,000 signatures. Mr Dowden said: “There is also a wider question about changing attitudes towards NHS staff. Now the petitions committee received evidence that amongst some there is a sort of an entitlement attitude that says, ‘We’ve paid our taxes’, and this is sometimes used to justify aggressive behaviour towards NHS staff. There were more than 70,000 recorded assaults on NHS staff in England last year, compared with 68,000 in 2015, he said.

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