More than 800 patient on patient attacks in one year

Violence in NHS hospitals has been slammed as “unacceptable” as it was revealed there were more than 800 patient on patient attacks in a single year.

The statistic amounts to more than two incidents taking place every day in 2011 – prompting patient groups to call for more action to reduce the problems.

Information released under Freedom of Information legislation revealed there had been 1991 such attacks in Lothian hospitals in the past three years.

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In one of the most serious incidents, an 87-year-old war veteran was assaulted in hospital by a patient wielding a metal pole in October last year.

Frail Philip Rutherford, who suffered a broken hand in the attack, was asleep in the Western General when an agitated patient hit him around the head with a pole used to hang drip feeds.

The hospital which recorded the most attacks was the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Morningside – the Capital’s main psychiatric hospital – at 1077 in the past three years.

A patient attacked in the hospital in 2011 was left seriously injured in what was described as a “bloodbath”.

The 20-year-old man was left with horrific head injuries when he was attacked by another patient on the 
Meadows Ward at the Royal Edinburgh, in Morningside.

Police, who treated the incident as attempted murder, arrested a 24-year-old man and detained him under the Mental Health Act.

A source described the scene as “like a car accident” and claimed staffing problems meant the ward was not being properly monitored.

There were seven attacks at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), which works with children and young people aged up to 18, in 2011.

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The Royal Infirmary has seen 20 patient on patient attacks since 2009, while st John’s Hospital in Livingston has recorded 85 over the same period, including 14 incidents last year.

Margaret Watt of the patient watchdog Scotland Patients Association described the figures as “unacceptable”.

“These statistics are very alarming,” she said.

“Anyone who is agitated as a result of mental health problems should not be put in a ward with other patients and this is where we go back to a shortage of nurses.

“People in hospital are very vulnerable and we don’t want any harm to come to them.”

The FOI report also revealed police had been called to deal with aggressive patients 72 times from 2011-12.

Ms Watt added: “The police having been called only 72 times is totally 
unacceptable. They should be called to every assault.

“If these attacks happened out in civvy street the person responsible would be up on a charge. I don’t think it’s being taken seriously enough.”

Nurse director at NHS Lothian, Melanie Hornett, said: “We do not tolerate any form of violence or aggression towards other patients or our staff.

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“However, we do have a number of patients who may display violent behaviour as a symptom of their illness and our staff work extremely hard to manage this risk.

“We have a robust system for the reporting and monitoring of incidents.

“All incidents are fully investigated and we act on any learning points to prevent reoccurrence.

“A comprehensive staff training programme in is place to provide guidance on how to de-escalate threatening situations and on reporting incidents to the police.”