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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Over 50,000 attacks on healthcare staff in the last five years in Northern Ireland

Health care staff anti abuse graphic

The figures were released today, Tuesday 12th December, by the Department of Health as it launches a new framework to help tackle violence and aggression towards HSC staff.


‘It’s not part of the job’ has been produced by the Department of Health in partnership with health trusts and Trade Unions. It aims to prevent, reduce and respond to violence and aggression in health and social care.


Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, Peter May said:


“No one should have to face the threat of aggression or violence in the course of their job, least of all HSC staff who dedicate their lives to protecting and caring for patients.


“The figures released today are appalling. HSC staff work in highly pressured environments and incidents such as these make their jobs more difficult. Abusive behaviour causes mental and physical harm to staff, leading to time off work and less time with patients.”


Number of incidents per year where staff were subjected to physical abuse:


• 2018/19 - 9,600

• 2019/20 - 9,910

• 2020/21 - 10,730

• 2021/22 - 10,482

• 2022/23 - 10,873


Total - 51,595


“HSC staff are empathetic and frequently express their understanding as to why some people behave in certain ways, sometimes that’s due to illness but often it’s just unacceptable behaviour which is not part of the job.


“We know that health and social care is under immense strain and this means people have to wait longer for care and treatment. I understand that this is frustrating, however reacting abusively in these situations is not acceptable. As the majority of people recognise, staff are doing their best in a system that is significantly under-resourced. They deserve our appreciation and respect,” said Mr May.


The new Violence and Aggression framework published today outlines the HSC’s commitment to ensuring the prevention, reduction and management of violence and aggression towards staff. It has also been designed to ensure that the right structures, policies and support are in place to enable staff to work safely.


Mr May continued: “The framework acknowledges that it is not possible to fully eliminate incidents of inappropriate behaviour when providing health services, as staff are required to treat and care for a wide range of people in challenging circumstances.


“Nonetheless, employers have a duty to provide a safe, secure environment and support for staff and others. Trusts are therefore required to undertake risk assessments as applicable and when incidents do occur, it is vital that they are dealt with appropriately and that staff are supported. The framework makes clear that trusts will also be expected to ensure incidents are reviewed and lessons learnt to reduce the risk of future occurrences.”


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