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Noble’s Hospital has a comprehensive policy on managing violence and aggression, according to a spokesman for the health service.

He was commenting after the Manx Independent reported last week that some staff at the hospital feared for their safety when dealing with violent and intoxicated patients on night time A and E shifts.

Isle of Man Government - Department of Education and Children''Dudley Butt MLC

Isle of Man Government - Department of Education and Children''Dudley Butt MLC

We spoke to one member of staff who said that violence had got worse in recent years.

But a Department of Health spokesman this week told the Independent: ‘Noble’s Hospital has one of the lowest rates of violence against staff when compared to acute hospitals in England, with 16 cases of physical assault recorded between April 2012 and March 2013, three of which were in A and E.

‘Twelve of these were caused by elderly patients outside A and E who were either confused or suffer from dementia.

‘The figures would place Noble’s Hospital amongst the 16 safest acute hospitals in England in terms of assaults on staff, out of a total of 161.’

The comments followed a recent court case which saw a young man sentenced to six months’ imprisonment after becoming violent and attacking staff in the hospital’s A and E department.

He had been experiencing hallucinations while under the influence of drugs.

A statement from the Department of Health said the hospital was equipped with security cameras and staff were trained to deal with aggressive patients, with porters on call round the clock if staff needed emergency help.

One criticism, that porters were not based actually in the A and E department, was being discussed, and the practicalities of doing this were under consideration.

Staff have personal panic alarms but panic buttons are in the process of being installed in the department.

The statement continues: ‘There are some A and E departments in the UK which have police stationed within the department. However, these are in areas where the levels of violence are much worse than in the Isle of Man, where it can actally be cost effective.

‘Of the people attending Noble’s Hospital, it is still fortunately a very small percentage of people that cause problems. The department and Noble’s Hospital management are not complacent and are continuously reviewing how aggressive and violent incidents are dealt with.’

An upgrade is to be considered for the hospital’s CCTV equipment, which would give a clearer view and would help in any court proceedings.

The hospital has already responded to the recent attack on A and E staff by issuing them with personal panic alarms, requesting panic buttons to be installed in A and E, providing extra staff training and reviewing its policy and procedures. Staff trainers have also recently visited Broadmoor High Security Training Centre in the UK to update their knowledge.

Dudley Butt, MLC, a political member of the Department of Health, said of the 32,915 A and E patients dealt with in the year ending March 2013, most were polite and appreciative, but he said the violence and abuse by a minority would simply not be tolerated.

He said: ‘The department takes the safety of staff extremely seriously and endeavours to ensure a safe working environment. There is a zero tolerance approach to violence and aggression against staff and where assaults do occur we work with the police to prosecute individuals where necessary. Even just one physical assault is one too many and we take the concerns of staff extremely seriously and work closely with unions on staff safety.’

There are posters in the hospital advising patients on acceptable behaviour. Staff are fully trained in techniques to deal with situations of aggression.

The department says the hospital’s portering and security team is on hand 24 hours a day and staff have been fully and professionally trained in control and restraint techniques to UK Home Office standards. The hospital also has a close working relationship with the police in dealing with incidents of assault and aggressive behaviour.

Mr Butt continued: ‘It is important that this incident is placed in context. While wholly unacceptable behaviour, we can be grateful that incidents of physical assault on hospital staff are rare. In fact Noble’s Hospital has one of the lowest rates for staff assaults when compared to other acute hospitals in England.

‘But we are not being complacent and additional measures to improve safety for staff, in A&E in particular, have already been put in place, with more to follow.

‘Patients who are violent are often intoxicated from the use of alcohol or drugs, and this is the root cause of their violent behaviour. It is not that people are purposefully presenting at A&E with the intention of causing trouble. That said, anyone attending A&E needs to remember that they are responsible for their own behaviour and that being intoxicated is no excuse for violence.

‘The vast majority of patients attending A&E for treatment – 32,915 between April 2012 and March 2013 – are polite, courteous and deeply appreciative of the assistance and care our staff provide.

‘The message is clear – unacceptable behaviour ranging from verbal abuse, to threatening behaviour, to actual physical assault will simply not be tolerated.’

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