Page last updated at 18:41 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 19:41 UK

'Lack of urgency' on NHS violence


More than 7,000 incidents of violence and aggression were reported by frontline NHS staff in 2008

Violence and aggression against NHS workers in Wales have been tackled with a "lack of urgency", according to a cross-party group of AMs.

Progress on the issue over the past three years had been "limited," said the assembly's audit committee.

The AMs agreed some improvements had been made but were concerned about the prosecution rates compared to attacks.

The assembly government said it would consider the report, and extra measures to protect staff had been announced.

Earlier this year, a nurse who was grabbed round the throat by a patient said he believed hospital security in Wales was inadequate.

He called for more CCTV cameras to be installed.

Other staff have reported suffering high levels of verbal abuse from patients and their relatives.

Three years ago, a nurse at Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr Tydfil, said she had to take time off after a patient attacked her.

"It wasn't until a week later really it hit home and I had to go on the sick because I was really physically shaking and distressed," she said.

Committee members have completed an inquiry into the problem that affects nurses, doctors and support staff in hospitals and surgeries throughout Wales.

It seems that there has been a general lack of urgency given to this important issue
Jonathan Morgan, committee chairman

They also said assaults were still under-reported because many workers did not believe action would be taken against their attacker.

Chairman Jonathan Morgan AM said: "It's just over three years since the committee reported first on the need to protect NHS staff from violence and aggression.

"In that time some progress has been made. Systems are being developed for recording incidents and systems to develop staff training are being developed.

"But there is still a long way to go and in three years only limited progress has been made.

"Alongside this, it seems that there has been a general lack of urgency given to this important issue and it was disappointing that the main response from health management seemed to be that this would all be fine in October, following NHS reorganisation."

'Too casual'

In particular, the audit committee raised concerns about the low rate of prosecutions compared to the number of incidents.

It has called on the health minister to investigate, in conjunction with health service unions, whether there is a need to lobby Westminster for tough new legislation.

Members also raised concerns that many security staff were temporary and privately contracted, claiming this meant some lacked the skills and training to cope with the specific issues of a hospital or health care setting.

They also found that the general approach to training of staff to deal with incidents of violence was still too casual.

The committee has recommend that greater priority should be given to all the issues they outline in their report and that the assembly government speeds up all the work identified by the Auditor General for Wales in his report on the same issue.

It has asked ministers to provide an update at the end of the year.

An assembly government spokesperson said: "The health minister has received a copy of the report and will consider its findings and recommendations.

"In April, the minister announced extra measures to protect NHS staff including CCTV cameras at accident and emergency units and in ambulances."

The job of the audit committee is to scrutinise the assembly's expenditure and ensure the assembly and other public bodies operate to the highest possible standards.

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