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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 July 2007, 23:15 GMT 00:15 UK
'She punched my head and face'
Becky Barnes
Becky had nightmares following the incident

With nurses' leaders saying more should be done to protect NHS staff working in the community, one nurse tells how being attacked by a patient left her suffering nightmares.

Becky Barnes was a community nurse helping patients with learning difficulties when one of them turned on her.

She was working in Redhill, Surrey, and had picked up a patient, a woman in her 30s, from her home to take her shopping.

"I was driving the car and she just attacked me - she started punching my head and my face and pulling my hair," Ms Barnes, 33, said.

More could be done - the training should be done across the board in all trusts
Becky Barnes

"I was trying to control the car and trying to fend her off. I managed to pull into a garage but all this time she was still hitting me.

"I managed to get my seatbelt undone and get out of the car, and she just got out, picked her handbag up off the backseat and walked off."

New job

Ms Barnes had over a month off to recover from her injuries which included a lot of bruising to her face and neck, and a whiplash injury as the patient had pulled her head into her stomach.

She also had nightmares and flashbacks.

Ms Barnes did return to work but found it difficult to cope and moved to a new job after a couple of months.

She now works in King's Lynn as a community detox nurse for a drug and alcohol group.

She said: "At that time, in 1997, there weren't such robust procedures in place as there are now.

"Now most trusts have risk assessments and mobile phones for nurses, and we had training on conflict resolution about a year ago.

We should start toughening up a bit so it doesn't happen so often
Becky Barnes

"But I do think that more could be done - the training should be done across the board in all trusts.

"And other things could be put in place, like more panic alarm systems in buildings we work from and risk assessments.

"But there's just not the money available in the NHS. I think all trusts are the same, because they are strapped for cash their priority has to be on other things."


And she said many colleagues still found themselves in vulnerable positions and were abused verbally on a regular basis, from both patients and their families.

Ms Barnes did try to press charges and received compensation, but because the woman who attacked her had a learning disability she was unable to press charges against her.

She said: "I think there are obviously certain people who can't take responsibility for their actions because they are unwell or have learning difficulties but equally I think there are a lot of people out there who are responsible for their actions.

"In the NHS we're such a caring profession that we're very reluctant to press charges against people who attack us and we're always finding excuses for their behaviour.

"But really I think we should start toughening up a bit so it doesn't happen so often."

Becky Barnes describes being the victim of an assault

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26 Feb 07 |  Highlands and Islands
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04 Jul 06 |  Manchester
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23 Nov 06 |  Nottinghamshire
'Action needed' to protect nurses
23 Nov 06 |  Scotland

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