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Drunken patient attacked me on hospital ward, reveals MP and frontline doctor

Dr Dan Poulter MP wants to see a zero tolerance approach to drunken patients who attack NHS staff. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Dr Dan Poulter MP wants to see a zero tolerance approach to drunken patients who attack NHS staff. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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An MP has revealed how he was once targeted by a drunken attacker on a hospital ward while working as a frontline NHS doctor.

Dr Dan Poulter, who is still working as a mental health doctor at an NHS hospital alongside his parliamentary duties, spoke about the incident after uncovering the scale of assaults on NHS staff in Suffolk.

The Central Suffolk and North Ipswich discovered there were 2,318 attacks on NHS staff in the county in 2018 - the equivalent of six a day - in a response to a parliamentary question from health and social care minister Stephen Hammond.

MORE: Dr Dan Poulter: Why I took a second job as an NHS mental health doctor - despite already being a busy MP

He said the figure was "too much" and joined two Suffolk hospital chief executives in calling for a zero-tolerance approach such attacks.

And he said his own experience of being attacked while working in an NHS hospital in London in 2010 meant he could appreciate the impact it has on victims.

Dr Poulter escaped relatively unharmed in the incident, where a colleague had been kicked in the stomach.

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"I happened to see what was coming and backed away," he said.

Police officers nearby then quickly intervened to restrain the attacker.

"It's certainly something that if it's happened to a member of staff, they're much more aware of it," he said.

"It can only affect your confidence and actually make it more difficult for people for people to receive care.

"It can become a job that causes you great anxiety and worry.

"It's not good for staff morale. For some people who are attacked at work, it can have a long-lasting impact.

"It can certainly take people out of their stride in terms of how they're able to perform in the job in that particular shift, but potentially for longer as well."

Dr Stephen Dunn CBE, chief executive of West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust - which runs West Suffolk Hospital - has even gone as far as to warn people who attack nurses and doctors that they could be refused treatment - except for in emergencies.

Dr Poulter would like to see more hospitals carrying signs warning patients that they face prosecution for aggressive behaviour towards doctors and nurses.

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