Hospital assaults on the rise

ASSAULTS on staff at Ipswich Hospital have increased dramatically over the past three years, The Evening Star can reveal today.In 2004 there were 243 recorded incidents of verbal or physical abuse being used against the hospital's staff by patients or visitors.

ASSAULTS on staff at Ipswich Hospital have increased dramatically over the past three years, The Evening Star can reveal today.

In 2004 there were 243 recorded incidents of verbal or physical abuse being used against the hospital's staff by patients or visitors.

This has risen steadily over the past three years from 130 in 2001.

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for the hospital, said: "One incident is one too many for us but we are doing all we can to tackle it. We are determined to safeguard the well-being and safety of our staff.


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"We acknowledge that coming to hospital can sometimes be very stressful and we understand people may not always behave in the way they would normally behave, but there are boundaries.

"It is not understandable to behave violently, aggressively or rudely."

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Ms Rowsell said she thought the increase in the figures was due to staff being more aware of the issue and more willing to report incidents, rather than an actual increase in assaults.

She said: "We strongly encourage staff to report any incidents of this nature. There's posters up all around the hospital stressing our zero-tolerance policy and reinforcing the message to staff that they don't have to take angry or abusive behaviour."

In 2002 the hospital was the first in the country to launch a unique fast-tracking system, in conjunction with the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the magistrates' courts, which sees anyone charged with violent or abusive behavior at the hospital brought before the courts at the first opportunity.

There is also a mobile police unit based at the hospital to increase security.

The increase in attacks against staff at Ipswich Hospital is in line with the situation across the country.

National figures show that there were 116,000 incidents of violent or verbal attacks against hospital staff in 2003.

The West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds appears to be bucking the trend, with the number of assaults or incidents of abusive behaviour falling from 67 in 2003 to 53 in 2004.

Jan Bloomfield, director of human resources at the hospital, said: "It's great news for the hospital and I think it's mainly because we've taken quite a lot of action in relation to supporting staff.

"We've got panic alarms in key areas like A&E and we've also done a lot of awareness raising, not only with the staff but also within the community, to reinforce the message that behaviour like this will not be tolerated and people will be prosecuted."

Have you been the victim of an assault at the hospital? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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