INCIDENCES of violence or aggression against NHS staff working in the Borders are among the highest of any NHS board in Scotland.
Freedom of Information requests to 14 NHS boards in Scotland have revealed that between April and December 2012 a total of 1,268 incidents of physical or verbal assaults against staff were reported to NHS Borders, more than any other Scottish health board with the exception of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
The local figure for just nine months of the year was also more than the final total for the 2010/11 financial year.
Calum Campbell, chief executive of NHS Borders, told TheSouthern: “Our staff are extremely valuable and any attack on them is totally unacceptable.
“Staff should be completely safe in their jobs and should not receive any sort of abuse at work. Violence against our staff is taken very seriously and we will continue to do all we can to prevent it.”
Mr Campbell added: “We encourage all staff to report all incidents, of any nature, be they verbal or physical, so that we can investigate and learn from them, and we have seen a rise in incident reporting since the introduction of the Datix reporting system.”
The number of reports of aggression and violence against staff since 2009 has fluctuated quite significantly in the 14 NHS board areas.
In 2009/10 almost 2,000 incidents were reported by staff to NHS Borders, but this dropped to just over 1,100 the following year.
If the current rate of attacks continue, the final total for 2012/13 could reach 1,700, almost the same level as 2011/12.
The associate director of the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland has hit out at the number of attacks on staff. Norman Provan said: “Staff must be able to go about their daily job, caring for patients, without fear of being subjected to physical violence or any form of abuse.
“The fact that, in some health boards, the number of reported incidents has increased substantially is completely unacceptable.
“What we don’t know is whether the increase at some boards is all down to an increase in the number of assaults and abuse against staff, or whether some staff now feel more able to report violence and abuse.
“Having said that, it’s not just about dealing with the problem after it’s happened – employers, the police and the justice system must work together to ensure that staff have a safe working environment at all times and that violence against healthcare staff is seen as completely unacceptable behaviour.
“Employers must also positively encourage their staff to report such incidents and promote a culture where staff know that they will be taken seriously and will be supported, so that the perpetrators are prosecuted wherever possible.”
Mr Provan added: “In May, all NHS staff will get the opportunity to fill out the staff survey, which includes a section on violence and aggression at work.
“We know there’s under-reporting of violent incidents and by comparing what staff said in the last NHS survey two years ago, we’ll have an up-to-date picture, directly from those on the frontline, about their experience of violence and abuse – and will hold to account those health boards with a poor record on violence against staff.”
Offenders face a fine of up to £10,000 or imprisonment if convicted of violence against emergency service workers.