Health staff subjected to more than 8,000 physical and verbal attacks

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More than 8,000 health professionals in Northern Ireland were physically and verbally attacked during a 12-month period.

Figures just released by the health minister for 2015/16 revealed 6,057 staff across the health service were assaulted while a further 2,325 staff suffered verbal abuse.

Jo-Anne Dobson said it was 'wholly unacceptable' that staff endured so many attacks

Jo-Anne Dobson said it was 'wholly unacceptable' that staff endured so many attacks

This includes ambulance staff who were attacked 160 times in the course of their duties.

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust accounted for the most attacks with staff employed there subject to 3,562 incidents of verbal and physical abuse.

In each of the five health trusts and the ambulance service physical attacks on staff have increased year on year for the past three years.

The latest figures were released by Health Minister Michelle O’Neill in response to a written Assembly question from UUP MLA Jo-Anne Dobson.

The minister said: “Each Health and Social Care (HSC) Trust has a robust zero tolerance policy in place with a senior director responsible for ensuring staff safety and support is properly and consistently managed across the trust.

“This is underpinned by health and safety legislation, which places a duty on trusts to provide a safe and secure environment for staff and others.”

Reacting to the figures Ulster Unionist health spokesperson Mrs Dobson said: “These figures reveal the unacceptable conditions that our doctors, nurses, paramedics, patients and visitors face in our hospitals, often on a daily basis.”

She added: “The dedication demonstrated night and day by our health workers is extraordinary, so it is wholly unacceptable that they have been subject to many incidents of abuse or attack.

“Our medical staff, including those working in emergency services, already face a difficult enough task of coping with a growing volume of often incredibly difficult work, so it’s deplorable that some are having to fear for their own personal safety.

“The health minister, along with the police service, needs to recognise that tackling abuse and violence within the health service has to be a major priority, given that the situation appears to be getting worse, rather than better.

“Whilst I welcome the commitment from the minister that each health trust has a robust zero tolerance policy in place, this will only truly work if those individuals found guilty of assaulting health staff are given sentences sufficient enough to act as a deterrent to others.”