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Over 5,500 attacks on health and fire rescue staff in six months – 80% of which were physical

Craigavon Area Hospital

In the six months up to March 2021 there were a staggering 5,500-plus attacks on health and fire staff in Northern Ireland.

Of these, around 80% were physical attacks.

Today (Wednesday), the Health Minister Robin Swann is supporting the call by Northern Ireland’s health bodies and the Fire and Rescue Service to push back against abuse and violence of HSC staff.

In an unusual move the chairs of the health bodies and the Fire and Rescue Service have issued a joint call for the public and for politicians to support staff following increases in levels of violence against staff.

The Minister said: “As Minister, I take the issue of abuse towards staff extremely seriously. Everyone has the right to feel safe from the threat of violence and aggression in the workplace.

“Staff spend their working days caring for others and saving lives, and their safety should be paramount. It is wholly unacceptable that they should be abused or attacked in the course of their duties.”

Available data suggests there were over 5,500 attacks on staff reported in the 6 months to March 2021; The vast majority of these attacks (over 80%) are classified as physical.

The Minister concluded: “I am committed to reducing the risk of violence and aggression wherever possible and creating a safe environment for staff, patients and others who use the services. Unfortunately we are seeing a rise in numbers of attacks and we must all as a society reject such despicable behaviour and protect our frontline staff and services. They are already facing unprecedented pressures and need our support now more than ever.”

Each HSC Trust currently operates a local Zero Tolerance on Abuse of Staff Policy and whilst it is recognised that incidents of an aggressive or violent nature cannot be fully eliminated by policy alone, this provides a means to manage and minimise the risk to employees.

The policies aim to ensure that all staff are aware of, and are protected from, as far as is reasonably practical, violent or potentially violent situations that may occur within Trust facilities and/or whilst staff are on duty.

Trusts have established a regional Zero Tolerance Task and Finish Group which has been working in collaboration with a range of key stakeholders to develop a regional Managing Violence and Aggression policy framework.

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