Date Published: 10 November 2006

BMA(NI) calls for immediate action to stop violence against doctors

The British Medical Association Northern Ireland is today, Friday 10th November 2006, calling on NI Health Minister, Paul Goggins MP, to take immediate action to stop violence against doctors and other healthcare workers.

The call comes as BMA(NI) publishes the results of a survey of doctors in Northern Ireland, carried out in September this year, to explore the incidence of violence against doctors and to look at how such incidences impact on their lives. The report is being sent to the Health Minister and his Department.

Almost 1,000 doctors, from across all specialties, responded to the survey. Almost half said that violence in the workplace is a problem and more than a quarter said that violence in the past year had increased. 56 said it had not changed. Only two doctors reported a decrease.

Dr Brian Patterson, the BMA's NI Council Chairman, said:

" The results of this survey bear out what we had feared, that violence in the medical workplace has not improved and indeed is still on the increase. The campaign launched back in March 2004 by the then NI Health Minister, Angela Smith, to tackle violence and intimidation against HPSS staff has obviously not worked.

_ The BMA has written today to Minister Goggins requesting an urgent meeting with him to look at how the Department should address this issue immediately.

_ We appreciate that the DHSSPS has set up a Zero Tolerance Group to produce policy and guidance for Trusts and Boards to deal with violence in the NHS. The BMA sits on this group. However, whilst deliberations continue, so does the violence. There is action that can be taken now and we have asked the Minister to meet with us urgently so that we can put before him the measures we believe, if he has the will to do so, he can put in place without delay."

The BMA's survey shows that two out of five doctors said they had personally experienced violence in the past year, the majority of whom were verbally abused or threatened a number of times, some as many as twenty.

More than a quarter (27%) of doctors who reported experience of workplace violence, experienced physical violence or abuse. These incidents ranged from being kicked, scratched, shoved, deliberately urinated upon, hit and punched, to knife assaults and being threatened with a chair, a drip stand and hot soup.

Slightly more GPs reported an increase in violence than hospital doctors, 30% compared to 28%. Amongst hospital doctors, those working in A&E, anaesthetics and psychiatry specialties reported the highest increases.

Following a violent incident, support was received by less than two-thirds of doctors. Around a third said that their experience of violence had affected their work, either psychologically or physically.

Less than than 10% of doctors reported having access to a secure facility in which to treat violent patients.

90% of doctors agreed that there should be a register of violent patients set up in each Health Board area.

The BMA (NI) Chairman said:

" There are a number of steps the DHSSPS and health service employers could take immediately to make an impact in tackling this issue. Some of these are:

  • Requiring Chief Executives of HSS Trusts to publish copies of local trust policies for recording violent attacks and ensuring that alleged perpetrators are brought to the attention of the police.
  • Requiring Chief Executives of HSS Trusts to ensure robust local systems are in place to support the victims of violence.
  • Publishing a set of standards that define the rights of all HPSS employees to practise in a safe environment and how HPSS organisations will uphold these.
  • Working with the police, court service and judiciary to ensure that those who assault doctors, nurses and other health professionals are arrested, prosecuted and receive appropriate sentences.
  • Requiring Chief Executives of HSS Trusts to establish and maintain an accurate and up to date register of violent and potentially violent patients that can be accessed by HPSS organisations.
  • Implement a more proactive approach to prosecution by Trusts and Boards."

Source: British Medical Association, UK
http://www.bma.org.uk

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