CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

New police unit tackle rise in attacks on NHS staff

Woman handed curfew after drunken rage at the Royal Free

02 November, 2017 — By William McLennan

The Royal Free Hospital

A NEW unit dedicated to policing Camden’s hospitals has vowed to end the rising level of violence faced by NHS staff, as a young woman was convicted of assaulting three nurses in a drunken rage at the Royal Free.

Doctors and nurses at the four NHS hospitals in the borough have been subjected to an increasing numbers of assaults over the past decade, which peaked last year with nearly one attack recorded per day.

The latest conviction is the result of a new initiative which sees an officer posted at Camden’s hospitals in an attempt to stem the rise, which police said had led medics to “become almost immune” to abusive behaviour.

Inspector Paul Clarke: “It is a sad indictment that people feel that it is acceptable to verbally abuse and assault NHS staff, who have dedicated their lives to helping and caring for the sick and injured.”

He said that the attacker was “heavily intoxicated,” but added: “That is not an excuse for this sort of behaviour, just as it would not be for a drink driver who injures or kills someone.”

The 20-year-old attacker, who pleaded guilty on October 19 to three counts of assault, was handed an eight-week curfew and fined £550. Her conviction came as Parliament debated plans for a new law that will make assaulting hospital staff a more serious offence, doubling the maximum sentence from six months to 12 months in jail.

Research by the New Journal found there were 355 reported assaults on staff at the borough’s four hospitals – the Royal Free, Whittington, University College London and Great Ormond Street – in 2015/16, compared to 319 the year before and 225 in the 12 months before that. The government has cut NHS Protect, the part of the health service responsible for monitoring assaults, however, meaning any further rises in violence will be more difficult to track.

Welsh MP Chris Bryant, once an aide to Holborn and St Pancras MP Frank Dobson, has sponsored the Assault on Emergency Workers Bill, which has been supported by the Royal College of Nursing.

Inspector Clarke said the latest conviction had come even though “staff were initially reluctant to progress the matter, as it is a regular occurrence and they had become almost immune to this sort of behaviour.”

He added: “The hospital team were of the opinion that people working to care for others should never, ever accept that being subjected to this behaviour is acceptable and undertook a proactive investigation leading to a conviction at court.”

Sgt Paul Taylor, who leads the hospital team, said: “This is another example of the police and our colleagues in the NHS working together to ensure violence directed at hospital staff is not tolerated.

“We continue to work with all NHS sites across Camden and Islington to encourage staff to report all assaults in order that similar perpetrators can be placed before the court.”

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