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More than 50,000 attacks on healthcare staff reported in the last five years


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New framework designed to ensure that the right structures, policies and support are in place to enable HSC staff to work safely  

The Department of Health (DoH) Northern Ireland has launched a new framework to help tackle violence and aggression towards health and social care (HSC) staff.

According to new figures released by the department, there were total 51,595 attacks on healthcare staff in the last five years, and the number of incidents is increasing every year.

In 2022/23, there were 10,873 incidents where staff were subjected to physical abuse, as compared to 10,482 the year before, 10,730 in 2020/21, 9,910 in 2019/20 and 9,600 in 2018/19.

The department’s new Violence and Aggression framework, which is produced in partnership with health trusts and Trade Unions, aims to prevent, reduce and respond to violence and aggression in the workplace.

DoH Permanent Secretary, Peter May commented: “No one should have to face the threat of aggression or violence in the course of their job, least of all HSC staff who dedicate their lives to protecting and caring for patients.

“The figures released today are appalling. HSC staff work in highly pressured environments and incidents such as these make their jobs more difficult. Abusive behaviour causes mental and physical harm to staff, leading to time off work and less time with patients.

“HSC staff are empathetic and frequently express their understanding as to why some people behave in certain ways, sometimes that’s due to illness but often it’s just unacceptable behaviour which is not part of the job.

“We know that health and social care is under immense strain and this means people have to wait longer for care and treatment. I understand that this is frustrating, however reacting abusively in these situations is not acceptable. As the majority of people recognise, staff are doing their best in a system that is significantly under-resourced. They deserve our appreciation and respect,” he said.

The framework has been designed to ensure that the right structures, policies and support are in place to enable staff to work safely.

May noted that while it is not possible to fully eliminate incidents of inappropriate behaviour when providing health services, it is the duty of employers to provide “a safe, secure environment and support for staff and others.”

“Trusts are therefore required to undertake risk assessments as applicable and when incidents do occur, it is vital that they are dealt with appropriately and that staff are supported. The framework makes clear that trusts will also be expected to ensure incidents are reviewed and lessons learnt to reduce the risk of future occurrences,” he added.

The new framework has been published on the DoH’s website.




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