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Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Strong action, not just words is needed to tackle violence in the NHS

Strong action, not just words is needed to tackle violence in the NHS
I'm glad to see violence against NHS staff is on the agenda for discussion in the Assemby today. However, I would rather it wasn't even a problem that needed discussing in the first place. I find it quite incredible that anyone would want to attack the very people trying to help them and make them better.

Violence towards doctors and other health professionals sadly isn't a new phenomenon either. It's certainly getting worse. More than a year ago, BMA Cymru called for all ALL frontline healthcare workers to be given a free personal attack alarm to help protect them.

In Wales, there are some 22 cases of violence or aggression reported by NHS workers each day and estimates suggest that it costs the NHS more than £6 million a year. This would also seem to suggest that the Welsh Assembly Government isn't getting to grips with the problem.

Let's stop and think about the victims here too, many of which are BMA members. I know from speaking to some, just how terrifying it can be to face someone aiming a punch at you, when you're just trying to locate the cause of that person's chest pains. It's pretty much taken as a given in some professions, such the police, that at some point during the course of your work, you will encounter violence. It certainly shouldn't start becoming "acceptable" if you work in the Welsh NHS.

The Welsh Assembly Government and NHS Wales are already committed to a zero tolerance approach towards violence and abuse of staff, with a working group making the following recommendations;

1. Police should be patrolling NHS premises to deter perpetrators of violence and reassure patients and staff

2. Extend the use of CCTV and one work alert sysem

3. The existing all-Wales violence and aggression training passport scheme should be incorporated into all NHS staff training

4. Trusts must ensure they work with the CPS to ensure the effective prosecution of perpetrators of violence

5. Employers must encourage and support victims to act as witnesses in any prosecutions

6. Staff should have free access to solicitors to pursue prosecutions and the recovery of additional costs incurred resulting from violent and aggressive acts at work

BMA Cymru fully supports these and hopefully this afternoon’s debate takes into account the recommendations too. We would welcome the practical implementation of them NOW to protect staff and send out the right messages to the violent and aggressive few. We need to reverse the current trend of increasing violence, or else we face a situation where people will be put off entering health care roles and those health professionals already in them, leave - at a time when NHS Wales cannot afford to lose employees. BMA Cymru urges WAG to get tough on this, sooner, rather than later.

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