Over 5,500 healthcare workers assaulted in the last 15 months

Figures released by the HSE show that, as well as dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, healthcare staff also faced 5,672 cases of verbal, physical, or sexual assault in the workplace.
Over 5,500 healthcare workers assaulted in the last 15 months

Kenneth Fox

Healthcare workers have been subjected to over 5,500 assaults — more than 12 a day — in the last 15 months.

Figures released by the HSE show that, as well as dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, healthcare staff also faced 5,672 cases of verbal, physical, or sexual assault in the workplace.

As the Irish Examiner reports, a breakdown of the data shows that 4,763 cases occurred in 2021, with a further 909 up to March 31st of this year.

Of those, nurses have borne the brunt, with 2,876 reported assaults in 2021 and 540 incidents this year.

There have also been 164 assaults on health support staff, 38 on ambulance or transport workers, 46 on catering and housekeeping, and 81 on medical practitioners, while “other staff” in the health service faced 1,609 assaults last year and 282 in the first three months of 2022.

Physical harm

HSE head of national health and safety, Nicholas Parkinson, says the National Incident Management System (Nims) was introduced in 2015 to better manage data on attacks on staff.

He said the figures include “all physical, verbal, and sexual assaults on staff that have been reported” since January 1st, 2021.

Mr Parkinson stressed that staff are encouraged to report all “near misses” and incidents — even those that do not result in physical harm.

“The figures show that there is a level of annual fluctuation in the reported incidents, however, the organisation continues to encourage the reporting of all incidents,” he said in reply to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin’s health spokesman, David Cullinane.

“Ensuring the safety of employees and service users is a priority concern for the HSE. The HSE is committed to creating a safe environment within which to work or to be treated.

"There is an emphasis on training and equipping the workforce effectively with skills on risk identification and the management of violence and aggression.”

Tony Fitzpatrick, director of industrial relations with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, said hospital waiting times and assaults are often linked.

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