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Violent patients should have marked records

Leaders condemn rise in abuse and call for clear identification of patients

Louise Prime

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Patients known to be violent towards doctors and other health and social care staff should have clear markers placed on their health records to warn carers about their history, doctors’ leaders have demanded. Dr Paul Darragh, chair of BMA (Northern Ireland), has also called for information about these patients to be shared between all health and social care organisations.

The number of times that police have been called to incidents of patients being threatening, abusive or violent has dramatically increased, particularly in the Belfast and South Eastern Trust areas. Last year alone there were more than 8000 verbal or physical attacks on health care staff.

Health minister in the Northern Ireland Executive Michael McGimpsey expressed disgust at the increase. He said in a statement yesterday: “I am absolutely appalled … The figures in Belfast have more than doubled to 218 and in the South Eastern Trust have risen almost five times to 124 attacks.

“For patients who need urgent treatment to then attack the very people who have come to help them is disgraceful and these people should be thoroughly ashamed of their behaviour. Not only are they disruptive to other ill patients, but they are draining staff resources to deal with this where it could be better used. [They] should face the full force of the law. That is why I signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Police and Public Prosecution Services to ensure the protection of health service staff.”

BMA(NI) Chairman Dr Paul Darragh said: “We echo Minister McGimpsey’s alarm and disgust at the increase of attacks on staff by patients.

“BMA(NI) has repeatedly highlighted the unacceptable rise in physical and verbal abuse that doctors and other health care colleagues face in the course of treating patients.

“There is a personal and financial cost to such attacks.

“If doctors are injured, then they will be unable to treat the patient and will need to take time off to recover – this impacts directly on patient care and also costs the health service money, money that would be better spent on delivering care.

Dr Darragh demanded: “BMA(NI) is calling for patients with a history of violence to be identified by placing a warning marker on their health record. This information should be shared between all healthcare organisations including primary, secondary and community care organisations, enabling healthcare staff to take appropriate precautions to ensure their own safety.”

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