Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said a crackdown on offenders has resulted in a significant increase in successful prosecutions against those who are violent or abusive towards healthcare workers.
In 2008/9 there were just eight prosecutions for violent or abusive offences against NHS staff. Thanks to a concerted effort between the police, the NHS and the Crown Prosecution Service, the likelihood of a prosecution is now much more likely.
In the last 30 months there have been 387 successful prosecutions, which have included custodial sentences. These included:
- a 30 month sentence for a patient who threatened a nurse in an outpatients department with a knife
- a 12 week sentence for a patient who was verbally and racially abusive to staff in a GP practice.
- a 16 week sentence for a patient brought into A&E who abused a nurse and kneed them in the lower abdomen.
Alongside prison sentences, there have been 564 other sanctions such as fixed penalties and ASBOs. Other measures, such as letters to patients who have been abusive or violent, are also proving successful. Cardiff and Vale University Health Board recently won an award for its scheme to address antisocial behaviour in the A&E Department. Anyone who is abusive or violent to staff while at the University Hospital of Wales is issued with a letter which is hand delivered to their home within seven days of the incident and triggers the first of four stages to a full ASBO.
An all-Wales programme to tackle the issue covered a number of initiatives, such as the installation of CCTV in clinical areas, lone worker safety devices connected to police control centres, and support systems for victims of violence or aggression.
The newest campaign warns “Verbal or physical abuse of our staff will result in prosecution”, with posters on display in hospitals, GP surgeries, pharmacies, dentists and opticians across Wales.
Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said:
“NHS staff should be able to go to work without fear of violence, abuse or harassment from patients or their relatives.
“Violence not only puts healthcare workers at risk, but prevents them from doing their job, caring for others.
“We have made significant progress in raising awareness of the problem, encouraging staff to report incidents of violence and aggression so prosecutions can be pursued.
“Violence against NHS staff will simply not be tolerated. We have seen a huge rise in successful prosecutions, which I hope sends a clear message that we have a zero tolerance approach in operation. I want those who think they can get away with attacks on NHS staff to know they will feel the full weight of the law.”
A new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the NHS, the Police Service and the Crown Prosecution Service aimed at further enhancing joint working to tackle the issue of violence and aggression against NHS staff is in the final stages of its development. This will replace two existing MoUs.