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They bite, they hit, they spit: patients assault staff at Nottingham hospital

“I’ve seen patients take swings at doctors because they’re not happy with the time it’s taken or the doctor’s diagnosis. I’ve seen fire extinguishers set off and thrown at people, computers lifted and thrown across the emergency department and people run out of cubicles and punch other patients – people they don’t know – for no reason.”

Roger Webb, a security supervisor at the Queen’s Medical Centre hospital in Nottingham, is recalling some of the more unsavoury incidents he has witnessed in the course of his work.

“I’ve been struck in the groin, had scratches all over my arms where people have dug their nails in. I’ve been bitten and I’ve been spat at while trying to deal with situations. The spitting is the most depressing of those, though, because it’s so contemptuous and so horrible. And legally it’s assault.”

Like staff across the NHS, those at the QMC have seen a rise in abusive, threatening and intimidatory behaviour by patients and their relatives in recent years. In 2021-22, Nottingham University hospitals (NUH), the NHS trust that runs the QMC and its sister City hospital, recorded 1,237 incidents of aggression, violence and harassment. But it had many more – 1,806 – during the following year, 2022-23.

Last year brought another increase. In the six months between April to September alone, NUH recorded another 1,167 incidents, leaving 2023-24 likely to be the worst ever on record.

Staff have been hit, spat at, threatened, verbally abused and racially abused during this roll call of unpleasant incidents. Racially aggravated harassment has increased notably.

Some of the incidents have led to perpetrators being charged and convicted. Worryingly, in a growing number of cases, the patient has been responsible for several incidents while receiving one single episode of care.

Care delays are the main trigger for abuse at the QMC. But such incidents also arise when staff are treating drunks, rival gangs, people who are high on drugs and those with mental health problems.

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Source: The Guardian, 25 February 2024


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