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Last Updated: Friday, 21 November, 2003, 16:29 GMT
Nurse attack sparks safety demand
Perth Royal Infirmary
The suspect may have been in the grounds the night before
A union is urging the government to do more to protect NHS staff after a nurse was attacked on a busy ward by an intruder.

The woman was not seriously hurt but was badly shaken by the incident at Perth Royal Infirmary about midnight on Thursday.

Tayside Police believe the man had also been acting suspiciously at the hospital on the evening before the attack.

Jim Devine, Unison's Scottish organiser, called for the Scottish Executive to carry out a risk assessment at every hospital and to implement an action plan to increase the safety of staff.

Mr Devine said: "This nurse is not just a member of Unison but is also an activist in our organisation and we are determined to ensure that physical and verbal abuse is not part of any health service worker's job."

This was a vicious, unprovoked attack on a member of the nursing staff whilst she was carrying out her duties in a busy hospital ward
Detective Chief Inspector Kenny Sinclair

The Royal College of Nursing has called for a review of security at the hospital in light of the attack.

Colin Poolman, RCN regional officer, said: "We are extremely concerned about the attack on a nurse at Perth Royal Infirmary and are calling on the trust to review their security arrangements as a matter of urgency.

"This is another dreadful illustration of how vulnerable nurses are to violent attack.

"Everything possible needs to be done to ensure the safety of all staff throughout the NHS."

'Complacency' allegation

At a conference in Edinburgh last month, Mr Devine said the executive was being "complacent" in efforts to protect NHS staff.

Doctors and nurses had been stabbed, head-butted, sexually assaulted and threatened with guns this year, he told delegates.

The Health Minister, Malcolm Chisholm, said he was adamant that violence against NHS staff would not be tolerated.

The police officer in charge of the Perth incident said the suspect may have been drinking in the city centre late on Thursday evening.

Perth RI entrance
Police are appealing for information about the incident
Detective Chief Inspector Kenny Sinclair added: "This was a vicious, unprovoked attack on a member of the nursing staff whilst she was carrying out her duties in a busy hospital ward."

The attacker is described as white, aged 25 to 30 and about 6ft tall.

Police said he had gaunt features and brown-cropped hair and may have a tattoo on his neck.

He was wearing a dark tammy type hat with a light horizontal band, a dark waist length zipped jacket, blue jeans and white trainers.

'Tougher penalties'

DCI Sinclair said: "It is vitally important we catch the man responsible as soon as possible and I would appeal to anyone who has information that may help us identify the man responsible for this attack to contact police immediately."

The Scottish National Party's health spokeswoman, Shona Robison, said: "We must step up action to protect public sector workers in frontline jobs from attack.

"Hospital workers have the right to work without fear of abuse or assault and we must have tougher penalties for those people who commit these crimes."




WATCH AND LISTEN
Alan Mackay reports
"The nurse is said to be badly shaken by her ordeal."



SEE ALSO:
Call to protect NHS staff
16 Oct 03  |  Scotland


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