NHS campaign in Wales to stop abusive patients

Aggressive and abusive patients who target doctors, nurses and health care workers are being warned that their behaviour will not be tolerated.

A poster campaign is being launched to highlight the NHS's zero tolerance policy for attacks on its workers, such as pharmacists, GPs and their staff.

The Welsh government, which is backing the campaign, said people will "feel the full weight of the law".

There have been nearly 200 successful prosecutions since April 2010.

A cross-party group of AMs said in 2009 that aggression against NHS workers in Wales had been tackled with a "lack of urgency".

CCTV was installed at four hospital A&E departments and in five ambulances, while thousands of lone workers were given panic buttons.]

'Massive improvements'

Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said the Welsh government, the NHS, police and the Crown Prosecution Service have also been working together to reduce the risks of violence and aggression against health workers since then.

"In addition to this, significant progress has been made to support staff affected by violence or aggression and to take action against perpetrators," she said.

"In the 18 months since April 2010 we have seen nearly 200 successful prosecutions. This is massive improvement in the number of prosecutions, which in recent years were in single figures."

Pharmacists and GP surgeries are being encouraged to display the posters in prominent areas of their premises to remind people using their services that if they act in an aggressive way, they will be prosecuted.

Ms Griffiths said health staff were expecting the final two weekends in the run-up to Christmas to be busy.

"It has been said we'll experience two Black Fridays this year. I urge people to drink responsibly," she said.

"If you do need to call the emergency services or visit an A&E department, please remember that any aggression towards the hard-working, dedicated staff will be met with stiff penalties."

'Kicking and punching'

Dr Charles Allanby, a GP in Cardiff, has been speaking out about violence in the NHS after he was randomly attacked by a stranger in his surgery.

The assault 18 years ago has stayed with him and he believes a zero-tolerance to violence policy is necessary.

"It was a cold November night and the man came into the waiting room of the surgery and said he wanted to see a doctor. He wasn't a patient at the surgery so we didn't know who he was," he said, recalling the attack.

"I went to the waiting room to see him, he got up off the seat, kicked the radiator and ran towards me in an aggressive way.

"I ran to my office but he got through the office door and pushed me to the floor and jumped on top of me and started kicking and punching me for no reason.

"He then got up and picked up my computer monitor - which in those days was huge - and threw it at me and it shattered on the floor."

Panic buttons

The violent patient was eventually arrested and tried in court, Dr Allanby said, but never paid his £200 fine.

"These days we do have things in place to try to minimise the risk that doctors and other workers face," he said.

"For example we do risk assessments and have panic buttons in all our rooms."

Dr Allanby is the primary care member of the Welsh government's All Wales Violence and Aggression working party and says the issue of violence in the NHS is being taken seriously.

"Also I think the fact the police and the CPS are now more keen to prosecute people and the courts are handing out custodial sentences," he added.

"These incidents don't just affect doctors and other workers - they are very intimidating for other patients too."

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