Posted on 6/08/2018 by David Burgess
Staff working for the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust were assaulted 491 times in a four year period.
Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust has spent £2.2m on private security in the past four years as its staff are assaulted 160 times per year.
The trust’s annual bill for private security between 2014/15 and 2017/18 has been between £540,000 and £580,000 a year, coming to £2.2m in total.
Between 2014/15 and 2016/17 staff at the trust have been physically assaulted 491 times, making an average of 164 assaults per year.
NHS Trusts, including Royal Berkshire, hire private security teams in an effort to protect doctors and nurses from unruly and potentially violent members of the public.
A spokeswoman for the Trust, which runs Royal Berkshire Hospital in Craven Road, Reading, Berkshire, said: "The Trust employs an external company to provide 24/7, 365-days-a-year security services and manage its car parks.
"Their responsibilities are wide ranging and include ensuring the safety and security of patients, staff and visitors, security of personal property and the security of the Trust's property, buildings and assets.
"We take any display of abusive or violent behaviour extremely seriously and support the government’s 'Zero Tolerance' campaign.
"We are committed to protecting the health, safety and welfare of our patients, staff and visitors and have robust policies, protocols and training in place to protect everyone, and manage undesirable or aggressive behaviour.
"These include both in-house and external specialist services that can provide advice and support to staff involved in traumatic or stressful incidents.
"A large percentage of incidents are often due to patients being in a confused or distressed state, which is in line with national statistics that show 75 per cent of assaults in hospital are committed by the elderly."
The national picture
Throughout England, a total of 53 NHS hospital trusts provided data showing that they spent £89m on private security between 2014/15 and 2017/18, while 82 provided data showing more than 12,000 assaults on staff during this time.
We asked more than 150 trusts for information.
The rest didn’t provide full data in response to our Freedom of Information requests or said the costs were tied up in PFI contracts, meaning the real totals are likely far higher.
Kim Sunley, national officer for the Royal College of Nursing, said: "These attacks can cause severe injury and mental trauma that can last for years.
"Yet, too often, assaults are seen as part of the job by employers.
"Our nurses have reported some truly horrific incidents, including eye-gouging – and one was beaten so severely, she was knocked unconscious.
"It took six members of staff to pull the patient off her and for weeks after the attack, she was too traumatised to leave her house. It was months before she could return to a front-line role."
Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: "This is a huge problem for staff in emergency departments.
"Alcohol plays a massive part. When you mix that with everything else that can go on in an A&E, you can have a cocktail for violence.
"There has always been a need for security, but it has had to get much heavier 24/7. It can be horrendous for staff realising that being at work is not safe for them."