As the double bank holiday weekend approaches, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is appealing to their communities to celebrate the Jubilee safely issuing a stark reminder that aggression towards NHS staff will never be tolerated.
Dr. Susy Cook began her role as interim chief people officer for the Trust in April this year and her discussions with staff have revealed some of their biggest anxieties around national events and celebrations is the issue of bullying and harassment by some people attending hospital.
Susy said: “As our services continue to open up and we welcome more and more patients and visitors, we must repeat our constant appeal to treat our colleagues with respect.
“Violence and aggression towards our staff is unacceptable. There are no circumstances when aggressive language and physical assault are justifiable.
“Our NHS is here to serve and our staff will never waver in our commitment towards our patients. But our colleagues are not here to be abused, threatened and hurt by the very people they are helping.”
With the Jubilee weekend approaching, the Trust’s emergency and urgent care services are gearing up for what is set to be a busy four days.
Susy commented: “We know everyone will want to enjoy their long weekend and have fun, but please try not to overdo it and injure yourselves.
“We’re asking everyone to please enjoy the long bank holiday responsibly.”
Midwife Tracey Bilton works at the women’s outpatients unit in University Hospital of North Tees. She said: “It was my first real incident of violence in 44 years here. A patient, she wasn’t even one of mine, just flipped and started shouting and swearing.
“She assaulted me and had me pushed up against a wall.
“I’m usually able to diffuse situations like that but not this time. I was really shocked and upset.”
Outpatient Department Matron Michelle MacMurray commented: “To be honest, we get shouted at a lot. We understand people can get frustrated but every one of us is trying our best to help.
“It is threatening when someone is in your face being abusive. We’re people too.”
Emergency Department nurse practitioner Helen Metcalf has also been on the receiving end of patient aggression. She said: “We get a lot of verbal abuse, mainly down to people thinking they have waited too long and they are angry and frustrated.
“I’ve been sworn at and had people screaming at me. Once a patient even locked themselves in a treatment room with a colleague. That was really scary.
“Asking people to wear a mask can be tricky; people can sometimes kick off about that and some get angry if they aren’t prescribed the medication they have decided they need.
“We don’t come to work to be shouted at and threatened like that.”
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust hospitals have a 24/7 security team who can be called to any disturbance.
In recent years, the Trust has carried out several awareness campaigns aimed at encouraging everyone to regard violence towards staff as being unacceptable:
• ‘It happened to me’ – a campaign run in partnership with Cleveland Police, Cleveland Fire Brigade and North East Ambulance Service.
• ‘My Mummy works here’ – a campaign featuring the children of our staff.
• ‘You wouldn’t do this…’ – a campaign to contrast a hospital with local shops etc.