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Thursday, 14 October, 1999, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
NHS violence: The nurses' story

Hospital staff fear they could be attacked
The Government has pledged a crackdown on violence against NHS staff - yet for many, the fear of attack is ever present.

Surveys of nurses suggest that many feel safer walking the streets at night than walking their own wards.

Auxiliary nurse Carol Harmon told how she was attacked by a drunken woman at Hope Hospital in Salford, Manchester.

She said: "I had a bruised and dislocated jaw, she'd also perforated my ear drum and I had bruises on my body.

"I couldn't scream, I couldn't shout out, even though a colleague of mine was in the next room, because I was using all my effort to stop her hitting me.

"I felt very angry that she could actually come into my place of work and attack me because she'd had a drink."

Ms Harmon added: "I coped by thinking 'I'm not going to let her win' so I came back into work and just tried to carry on."

Steve Walker, an Accident and Emergency charge nurse at the same hospital, said that attacks on casualty staff were routine.

"Nurses have been punched, kicked, bitten, spat at and threatened with knives. I have been hit in the face by a patient's relative.

"It seems to be an ongoing battle," he said.

"Years ago it used to be an infrequent problem. Now it seems to be certainly weekly and often daily, particularly at night when the staff are subjected to all kinds of violence, not just minor abuse ... now it seems to be increasingly physical as well."

Safer walking home

Mr Walker added: "Most nurses, from those figures, obviously feel it's safer walking home at night or going about their general routine during the day away from work than they actually do being at work."

A TUC report into violence against NHS staff lists examples of attacks, including nurse Gez Bevan who was attacked by a methadone user at a drug and alcohol clinic in Oxfordshire.

She was kicked and punched by the patient.

Nurse Sharon Woodings, who works for Northampton Community Health Care Trust, was locked in a patient's house after the woman's husband become violent.

She said she felt "physically sick" just thinking about the incident.

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14 Oct 99 | Health
Zero tolerance for NHS violence
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