'Galling' figures show up to 45 staff abused a month at Norfolk hospital

The James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston has urged people not to come into A&E unless it is an emergency. 

The James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Up to 45 workers at a Norfolk hospital are being abused by patients each month.

On Wednesday, the A&E department at James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) reported seeing an increase in rude and abusive behaviour, as demand for its services led to patients experiencing longer waits. 

The hospital urged people to not use A&E unless it is an emergency. 

At a meeting of the hospital's board of directors on July 30, it was reported that there were 45 cases of staff abuse in May, while cases dropped to 31 in June.

Over the past year, an average of 25 employees were abused a month.

The report stated: "Paul Morris [director of nursing and patient safety] confirmed the Trust is not normalising the level but highlighting that the number of incidents have returned to ‘within the range’.

"He advised there is lot of work ongoing around how to deal with and manage abuse."

A flyer warning against abuse of NHS staff at James Paget University Hospital.

A flyer warning against abuse of NHS staff at James Paget University Hospital. - Credit: NHS Norfolk and Waveney

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The meeting also mentioned developing a Trust strategy towards abuse while reviewing existing policies.

Teresa Budrey, eastern regional director for the Royal College of Nursing, said: "It is a really difficult time for the A&E department at JPUH.

"We are aware that aggression from patients usually comes from the stress around waiting times, and there are long waiting times currently.

Teresa Budrey, eastern regional director of the Royal College of Nursing. Picture: RCN

Teresa Budrey, eastern regional director of the Royal College of Nursing. Picture: RCN - Credit: Archant

"However, staff are trying to continue to deliver high quality care to patients that need it.

"We know that the increased waiting time is clearly bringing anxiety to patients and that is coming out as aggressive behaviour towards staff and that clearly is stressing staff.

"We know we need every staff member on shifts, but this added stress is creating more sickness within staff members.

"It is really important that the local Trust works with local people so they know where to find the best treatment and advice."

A spokesperson from the JPUH added: "Please can we ask you to call 111 if you have an urgent medical need but it’s not an emergency, and please consider using your local pharmacy for advice for more minor issues."

Great Yarmouth's only NHS walk-in health centre closed in 2016.

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Peter Passingham said: “No one should face violence, abuse or sexual harassment at work, but it’s particularly galling when the victims are people whose job is to heal others.

“NHS staff are already overworked, underpaid and struggling to cope with the huge backlog caused by Covid.

"The last thing they need is abuse, threats or violence.

“We understand that the long waits are stressful, but there’s absolutely no excuse for taking it out on staff.”

From a poll conducted at the beginning of August by the British Medical Association (BMA), it was reported that:

  • More than a third (37pc) of all respondents had experienced verbal abuse first-hand in the most recent month – including 51pc of GPs and 30pc of hospital doctors
  • One in five GPs reported being threatened
  • Over half of respondents (51pc) had witnessed violence or abuse against other staff, which rose to 67pc for doctors working in general practice
  • Two-thirds of GPs (67pc) said their experience of abuse, threatening behaviour or violence had got worse in the last year
  • The most common place for abuse experienced by GPs was in their consulting rooms (53pc), while hospital doctors said it was on wards (49pc)
  • While respondents reported a number of factors they felt were behind the incidents, 64pc (75pc GP, 54pc hospital) said the perpetrator was dissatisfied with the service or access.

Responding to the survey findings Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said: "Many doctors share the frustration of their patients around unfamiliar ways of working, or if waiting times are too long.

"However, abuse, violence and threats are absolutely unacceptable and should never be tolerated.

“GPs and their colleagues are doing their absolute best, day in, day out, to provide care to their local communities, and we know that the vast majority of our patients appreciate the hard work we are doing."