With more than two in five nurses and one in three doctors experiencing physical or verbal abuse at work in the last year, the Royal College of Nursing and the British Medical Association in Scotland have joined forces today (14 December 2006) to deliver a strong message to Scotland’s politicians – that all healthcare workers have the right to work without the fear of abuse or violence.
The RCN and BMA are sending Christmas cards to all MSPs calling for a violence-free 2007. The cards depict a picture of a ‘beaten up’ Santa Claus, who, like doctors and nurses, has been assaulted, despite his good intentions.
Year after year, surveys show that violence is a real problem in the NHS however, many incidents are not reported as many healthcare workers view abuse and violence as part of their job. RCN Scotland and BMA Scotland are therefore calling for increased protection for healthcare staff from violence and aggression as well as better support when incidents do occur.
Unveiling new figures on violence against doctors in Scotland, Dr Michael Norbury, junior doctor and member of BMA Scottish Council said: “Violence at work is unacceptable. One in three doctors who took part in a recent BMA Scotland survey said that they had experienced verbal or physical abuse at work in the last year. Of these, nine out of ten reported suffering verbal abuse and nearly half of junior doctors reported both physical and verbal abuse at work.
“One of the biggest problems in assessing the scale of the problem is that it is so commonplace that people accept it as part of their job and don’t report it. No-one should have to experience verbal or physical threats in their workplace and health professionals should have the support to report every incident so that we can protect our doctors and nurses this Christmas”.
Jane McCready, RCN Scotland Board Chair added: "All nurses will be affected by violence and aggression at some stage in their career. One in three will be attacked themselves while their colleagues will have witnessed these incidents and may have had to come to their aid. This cannot be allowed to continue. All healthcare staff have the right to come to work without fear of abuse.”
Roseanna Cunningham, Convener of the Health Committee, who accepted delivery of a card today said: “For most of us the idea of healthcare workers getting assaulted while trying to help people is utterly unimaginable. But it happens - and with a staggering frequency.
“Alcohol and drugs, of course, play a big part in these assaults and so this time of year, when goodwill to all is all too often replaced by destructive over-indulgence, is an important time to highlight this issue and I am delighted to be able to join with Scotland’s doctors and nurses in doing so.”
A GP who was recently assaulted on a home visit said: “This is the first time I have been physically assaulted. Physically I’ve recovered but I am more anxious at work since the incident.”
A nurse who has been assaulted while at work in an Accident and Emergency Department said: “Every time I treat a patient I have to weigh up the potential for trouble. A lot of incidents involve people who are brought in drunk or on drugs. They just lash out for no reason.”
Notes for Editors:
- A jpeg or PDF version of the Christmas card is available. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- More than two in five nurses have experienced physical or verbal abuse at work in the last year. (RCN, Breaking Point Survey, 2006).
- A BMA Scotland survey conducted in August 2006 revealed that one in three doctors have experienced physical or verbal abuse at work in the last year.
- The Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act, passed in 2005, increases penalties on individuals who assault or are violent towards certain groups of public sector workers and covers healthcare workers in hospitals and those attending emergency situations in the community. The RCN and BMA have called for this legislation to be extended to protect healthcare in all areas of the health service, for example in practices in local communities or home visits, which are not considered emergency situations.
- Further information about RCN Scotland’s manifesto for the Scottish Parliament elections is available at: www.rcn.org.uk/scotland
- Further information on how violence affects doctors, including the results of a new BMA Scotland survey is available at: www.bma.org.uk/scotland
Beatrice Morrice 0131 247 3052/07979 510 421
BMA Scotland firstname.lastname@example.org
Ryan Norton 0131 662 6173
RCN Scotland email@example.com
CASE STUDY 1
Dr Smith*, a GP in a city centre practice was recently assaulted when visiting a patient at home. Here, he explains, in his own words what happened and how it has affected him personally:
“In November, I was working a weekend shift for the local out-of-hours service when I was called to a patient’s home. I had just entered the house when the patient came into the corridor and head-butted me without any warning whatsoever. I was injured in the face and I had a laceration in the inner upper lip and bruising around my mouth. I had to see the dentist a few days later for an X-ray and fortunately everything was okay but I do have to have repeat X-rays in six months time.
“Although we are frequently subjected to verbal abuse by patients and their relatives, this is the first time I have been physically assaulted.
“Physically I’ve recovered but I am more anxious at work since the incident. I suffer from flashbacks and I have had trouble sleeping. I often go into patient’s homes alone and now more than ever I am conscious of the risky situation I place myself in daily.”
*The GP’s name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual.
CASE STUDY 2
One nurse who works in Accident and Emergency said:
“There was this one guy who was brought in drunk and hit out every time you went near him. He hit me and had to be restrained by six members of staff until the police arrived. That type of incident isn’t unusual. It’s a typical shift really, especially at weekends.’
‘Our managers are supportive because they know the risks that A & E staff face. Other managers are different. I have a friend who was physically and verbally assaulted on a ward. He was told not to report it. What message does that send out to staff?”
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