Ipswich Hospital workers suffer 434 physical assaults in five years – but only SEVEN led to convictions

Woman in her 80s taken to Ipswich Hospital

Woman in her 80s taken to Ipswich Hospital - Credit: Archant

Concerns have been raised at Ipswich Hospital following a rise in the number of physical attacks against on-duty health workers.

A total of 434 physical assaults against NHS staff at the Heath Road site have been reported in the last five years – but there have been only SEVEN convictions, a new report has found.

The low conviction rate comes despite the number of physical assaults almost doubling from 56 in 2009/10 to 104 in 2013/14.

Most of the attacks were carried out by vulnerable patients, such as those with mental illnesses or severe learning disabilities, who were undergoing treatment and may not have been in control of their actions.

Some 409 of the 434 physical assaults involved ‘medical factors’, meaning criminal convictions are unlikely, experts said.

But Karen Webb, eastern regional director at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “It is concerning to see such a big rise in assaults, and it is vital that staff have the right training to deal with aggression and that staffing levels match the demands being placed on frontline nurses.

“Hospitals in Suffolk are extremely busy, we know there are staffing pressures, and we would urge NHS trusts to ensure that steps are taken to protect staff.”

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Richard Hampton, head of external engagement and services at NHS Protect, which tackles crime in the health service, echoed the concerns, saying: “No NHS staff should be physically assaulted and we encourage staff who are victims of violence to press charges against assailants.

“Those who work in the NHS have the right to provide care in a safe environment and employers must do all they can to support staff in preventing incidents and pursuing offenders.”

Nationally, it is feared increasing waiting times and fewer frontline staff in emergency departments at hospitals are causing more assaults.

Bosses at Ipswich Hospital stress they are meeting both of these targets and insist a new “culture” of encouraging employees to report all assaults is a key factor behind the overall increase.

An Ipswich Hospital spokesman said health workers are trained to deal with aggressive behaviour, while a “fast-track” partnership with magistrates in Ipswich means people charged with assault are quickly taken to court.

She said: “We have got a culture of actively encouraging people to report all assaults so we can understand them and help make sure they do not happen again.

“There are 8,000 people on site every day and we care for 400,000 people a year, so the numbers are very, very small.

“Clearly one assault is one too many and we have a zero-tolerance approach to anyone abusing any member of staff.”

She also said any employee injured after an assault is given full support, while those responsible for “malicious” assaults may be refused treatment.