Drink blamed for increase in assaults

A rise in anti-social behaviour and drink-fuelled violence has been blamed on the increasing number of assaults that are treated in hospital each week.

A rise in anti-social behaviour and drink-fuelled violence has been blamed on the increasing number of assaults that are treated in hospital each week.

Staff at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the James Paget University Hospital had to treat a higher number of assaults at weekends and they make up more than 2pc of total attendances.

New figures, released by the NHS Information Centre, show across the UK there were nearly 200,000 cases of assault treated by accident and emergency units last year (2008/2009).

The figures showed out of the 12,559 patients who were in A&E at the N&N on every Saturday night at least 302 or 2.4pc were treated for assault and 295 or 2.2pc of the 13,260 people through the doors on a Sunday had been assaulted.

During weekdays the numbers dropped to about 1.3pc of all A&E attendances but it is believed the figures are much higher because many patients may not be totally honest about how they sustained injuries.

At the James Paget University Hospital there were 8,498 patients attending A&E on Saturday night and 136 or 1.6pc had been assaulted and on Sunday 152 or 1.7pc out of 9119 attendances were treated because of an assault. This number dropped to about 0.7pc on weekdays.

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Campaigners said this figure is “far too high”. North Norfolk MP and Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb, said: “We know that alcohol is a key factor fuelling violent crime and these figures show that our hospitals have to bear the brunt of it.

“For too long hospital staff have had to cope with the impact of binge drinking. We urgently need to stop alcohol being sold at pocket money prices and properly enforce existing laws if we're to have any chance of reducing the number of violent assaults that A&E departments have to deal with.”

Hospital bosses said they take the assaults very seriously and contact police whenever necessary so the assaults can be officially recorded.

An N&N spokesman said: “The A&E team at the N&N are very diligent when it comes to recording assaults and that information is passed to the police.

“Our numbers are probably higher here because we record more accurately but these figures do underline the impact that violence, very often alcohol-related, has on A&E departments and the wider community.”

The figures also show that 10am is the most popular time for people to go to casualty, and Monday the most popular day but the number of assaults are higher on weekends.

A spokesman for JPUH in Gorleston said: “Mirroring the national findings of the report, the number of A&E attendances and admissions we see relating to assaults often increases at weekends.

“If the small minority of people acted responsibly - by obeying the law, avoiding violence and not drinking alcohol to excess - it would help prevent our staff and resources from being abstracted to treat avoidable conditions which may have been caused by such antisocial behaviour.”

Contact www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk or call 0845 4647 for advice on health and treatment.