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NHS Staff (Assaults)

Volume 450: debated on Monday 16 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people in Northern Ireland have been convicted in each of the past three years for offences involving (a) violent and (b) abusive behaviour towards NHS staff; and if he will make a statement. (93316)

The information requested is not available, as upon conviction, neither the specific HPSS location of where a crime was committed, nor the occupation of the victim, is recorded by the PSNl or the Northern Ireland Court Service.

The Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) is fully committed to strengthening the protection of all health and personal social services (HPSS) staff. A number of measures have already been put in place to minimise the risk to staff, including panic buttons, toughened glass, CCTV and personal alarm systems for lone workers. A working group on Zero Tolerance comprising HPSS employers, staff side organisations and departmental officials is currently reviewing all procedures within the HPSS in order to ensure the safety of employees while at work. It recently convened a seminar to raise awareness and establish best practice. The group’s purpose is to eradicate violence from the HPSS work place.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make it his policy to give nurses and doctors in Northern Ireland the right to refuse to treat a violent patient. (93326)

The Zero Tolerance working group, which comprises HPSS employers, staff side organisations and departmental officials, has considered a document produced by the NHS in England entitled ‘Withholding treatment from violent and abusive patients in NHS Trusts’. The group concluded that withholding treatment was an emotive issue, which could be considered unethical in a mental health environment. The BMA in Northern Ireland has expressed its reluctance in adopting such a policy as it felt it would have human rights implications.

There have been cases where HSS Trusts have sought and obtained court injunctions designed to prevent patients with a history of violent and abusive behaviour having access to HPSS premises.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many incidents involving (a) violence and (b) verbal abuse of NHS staff in Northern Ireland took place in each of the last three years. (93328)

The detailed recording of incidents broken down between verbal and physical attacks has only formally been collated by the Department since 1 April 2004 and figures are contained in the table.

The table also contains the total number of attacks for the preceding year April 2003 to March 2004.

1 April to 31 March each year:

Verbal

Physical

Total

2005-06

1,792

3,590

5,382

2004-05

1,624

3,825

5,449

2003-04

1

1

4,522

1 Breakdown not available.