Staff at Noble’s Hospital are left vulnerable to attack from an increasing number of violent patients who may be drunk or high on drugs when they attend for treatment.
The claim comes days after a 20-year-old man was given a six-month prison sentence for attacking nursing staff at the hospital’s A and E department last autumn.
An informant who asked not to be identified told the Manx Independent incidents of patients attacking staff – even punching them – and becoming generally violent had increased in recent years.
‘There is no security in the A and E department itself and staff working there – who may all be female – have to put a call through for a porter to help if there is a difficult patient.
‘Really they need someone to be actually based in the A and E department itself.
‘There was no panic button for staff to use in an emergency either but I understand one is now in the process of being installed,’ the informant said.
‘At 9pm the main doors are closed and the access to the hospital is through A and E. Even McDonald’s have security on the premises, yet the hospital staff get abused most weekends – Friday and Saturday nights.’
Commenting on the issue of hospital security, the nursing union UNISON’s regional organiser Pat Barlow said: ‘It is important that hospital security is in place to ensure staff, patients and visitors are safe.
‘The trust needs to carefully consider whether it is necessary to improve security in the hospital.’
Average pay for doorstaff such as nightclub bouncers is around £10 an hour, making it a relatively small cost if one were to be employed by the hospital during high-risk periods like weekends.
Health Minister Howard Quayle MHK, who before taking up his current post asked Tynwald about measures to protect staff from patients high on drugs or alcohol, said he wanted to investigate the issue further.
Extra security was a possibility, he said, adding: ‘I’m sure it will be looked at, but every penny we spend is taking away from the service. But if it is a concern and people do not feel safe then we need to make sure they are looked after. It’s something we may have to consider. It’s one of hundreds of areas I am looking at, at the moment.
‘I would have a zero tolerance policy in relation to abuse of our hospital staff,’ he said.
Mr Quayle, whose Middle constituency includes the hospital, added: ‘Anyone laying a hand on our nurses or doctors should not be swept under the carpet.’
Statistics for England show a rise in 2012 - 2013 in criminal sanctions after assaults on NHS staff, taking the total from 1,257 to 1,458. In English NHS establishments, assaults rose from 59,744 in 2011-12, to 63,199 the following year. In a separate case earlier this year a man appeared in court after entering Ramsey Cottage Hospital by climbing in through a window during the night.