Health workers in Tayside are injured by patients in their care on a more than daily basis, figures have shown. Staff have been subjected to acts of aggressive behaviour or disclosed and recorded an assault more than 1,740 times since 2015, according to statistics recovered via a freedom of information request.
NHS Tayside said they did not have a category to record “attacks” as adverse events and most “attacks”would be considered a criminal act – whereas adverse events are “generally considered as unintended or unexpected incidents and opportunities for learning”.
The information handed over by the health board is categorised by either “violence and aggression”, “allegation of assault” or “aggressive behaviour – physical”.
As many as 1,000 of those resulted in an injury being recorded by employees – including broken bones, bruises, sprains, dislocations and needle-stick injuries.
The majority of the injuries reported were bruises or abrasions and fewer than five of the incidents resulted in broken bones.
Almost half of those incidents recorded by the health service took place in departments treating patients with learning disabilities and old age psychiatry.
Police were called only 92 times during the near four-year period, representing just over 5% of total recorded incidents.
Annie Ingram, NHS Tayside Workforce Director, said: “We are committed to providing a safe working environment for all staff members.
“Earlier this year we launched the Respect Us campaign which reminds patients and visitors that our staff are here to help and physical or verbal abuse is unacceptable and can lead to prosecution.
“We will not accept any kind of violence, both physical and verbal, against any member of our staff, patients or visitors.
“We take each and every incident extremely seriously as it is a fundamental right of our staff that they can carry out their duties without having to face any kind of violence or the threat of violence.
“Staff working in areas where patients may display challenging behaviours are appropriately trained adhering to NHS Tayside’s Aggression and Violence Management policy.
“Staff are actively encouraged to report all episodes, no matter how minor, on our electronic incident reporting system.
“Reporting all episodes in this way ensures that staff receive appropriate and practical support. NHS Tayside is committed to supporting staff safety and we work closely with Police Scotland, taking advice when required.”
Obviously a great concern in almost every way, and of course hugely depressing figures. However, I wonder to what extent the inclusion of needlestick injury data is misleading? Are these really malicious injuries and attacks? Really?
More likely is the inclusion here of staff suppering needle stick or sharps injury while giving injections of taking blood from a nervous or agitated patient who ‘jumps’ at the wrong moment. That is regrettably common in the list of causation for sharps injury, and probably of some significance here.