Page last updated at 09:15 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 10:15 UK

Call for more police at hospitals

CCTV footage of NHS security staff being attacked
The taskforce recommends free access to solicitors for victims

More police could patrol accident and emergency units under plans to cut violence against NHS staff in Wales.

An assembly government taskforce also recommends more CCTV cameras in hospitals.

Two weeks ago, the assembly government rejected a new UK government law to give more legal protection for attacked NHS staff.

Labour MP Alun Michael said NHS staff in Wales could still be worse off than those in England without the new law.

'Protect staff'

Welsh ministers rejected the chance to extend the new law to Wales and the assembly government said it was developing its own policies.

At the time, health minister Edwina Hart said she wanted "practical solutions" to the problem of violence and abuse "that will be acceptable to staff and protect staff".

Details have now emerged of what those policies could be in the interim report from the taskforce.

It recommends more police patrols, CCTV cameras in hospitals and an all-Wales chair to champion the issue.

The group, which includes health workers, also proposes free access to solicitors so that victims can also sue their attackers for compensation in the civil courts.

I was punched to the ground and knocked unconscious by a patient who was allegedly in police custody at the time
Dr Ian Millington, Swansea GP

And it says that NHS employers should provide support for victims of attacks to participate as witnesses in court cases against perpetrators.

In a statement announcing the report's findings, Ms Hart said: "I have asked officials to put the recommendations from this interim report into a costed action plan and to strengthen further the message of positive action against those who are violent towards NHS staff."

Iestyn Davies, of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales, which is part of a taskforce, said he hoped the recommendations would help change the culture of violence in hospitals.

"We have been looking at some very specific measures and action plans which can actually make a difference on the ground," he said.

"We're largely supportive of what we have heard so far.

Safe hospitals

"We would perhaps ask for more dialogue with us a bit more about maybe how we can increase the number of successful prosecutions that actually emerge out of these unfortunate incidents and actually begin to change the culture in Wales.

"We want to make sure that all members of staff and patients are safe in the hospitals."

Doctors in Wales say violence in the NHS is a real problem.

Swansea GP Ian Millington said: "My own experiences have been verbal threats, threats to my premises or my car.

"I have also been threatened personally. I had a screwdriver pulled on me in the surgery by a patient who was demanding drugs and I wouldn't give them to him.

"And when I was a casualty officer quite a number of years ago in the Royal Gwent in Newport I was punched to the ground and knocked unconscious by a patient who was allegedly in police custody at the time."

Mr Michael, the MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, said that while the report is "good" and looks to protect staff, he believes the new law should also be brought into Wales to further help crack down on hospital violence.

Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Jenny Randerson said she welcomed the recommendations for more police and CCTV, but added: "I believe this shows that the minister should have accepted the new English legislation to protect staff here in Wales.

"Devolution does not mean rejecting everything from Westminster."

Conservative health spokesman Jonathan Morgan backed some of the report's suggestions but called proposals to appoint "champions" to stop violence against staff "window dressing".

"The NHS already has a variety of duties of care to protect staff from violent attacks, the appointment of so-called champions suggests that the NHS is not taking the matter seriously at present," he said.

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