NHS staff in Glasgow area attacked nearly 3000 times during pandemic

NHS staff in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area were attacked nearly 000 times during the coronavirus pandemic with more than 500 injuries recorded, according to fresh figures.

Statistics obtained by the Reach Data Unit show there were 797 physical assaults against staff recorded in 2020/21 in the health board area, which covers Renfrewshire and Inverclyde.

This was the highest number across the whole of Scotland, with all but one health board responding to the request for figures.

What do the Glasgow stats show?

Attacks were down 12 per cent compared to the 3174 in 2019/20, but the data still suggests the risk to staff increased last year given there were far fewer people attending hospitals.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) saw A&E attendances drop 35 per cent in 2020/21, while inpatient and day cases fell 31 per cent.

New and returning outpatient attendances were down by 29 per cent and the spread of coronavirus also meant there were restrictions on visitors.

There were 1555 injuries to staff working in the health board area last year.

What has been the response?

Paisley-based MSP Neil Bibby said NHS workers being abused was not new and protecting them should be high on the Scottish Government’s priority list.

“Frontline staff faced violence and abuse before Covid struck the NHS and the dangers they face at work have not gone away,” said the Labour politician, who represents Renfrewshire and Inverclyde as part of his West Scotland remit.

“NHS staff have gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic and their wellbeing must be a priority for government and the health board.

“We should respect our key workers and protect them too, making workplaces safer and promoting the wellbeing of everyone serving in our NHS.”

In many assault cases, bringing criminal sanctions isn’t possible as the assailant isn’t aware of what they’ve done or that it’s wrong because of their medical condition or treatment.

The figures for NHSGGC suggest this might be the case in 93 per cent of assaults.

Overall across Scotland staff were assaulted nearly 9,000 times while dealing with the covid crisis, but that figure is likely to be much higher as NHS Fife did not respond to the request.

Leona Cameron, Royal College of Nursing national officer, said: “Assaults on staff can never be excused or seen as acceptable.

“We know it can have a real and long-lasting effect on those who are just doing their job.

“It has to be taken seriously and staff should be reporting all of these incidents and employers should be taking every single report seriously.

“But these attacks do not happen in a vacuum, and improved staffing levels, learning from incidents is a vital part of reducing the risk that too many health care staff run day in, day out.”

How is the Scottish Government responding?

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Assaults on NHS staff are completely unacceptable.

“We continue to encourage all NHS organisations to support staff to report incidents so that action can be considered against perpetrators.

“The general law of assault with penalties all the way up to life imprisonment can be used for attacks on hospital workers.

“There is also the Emergency Workers Act which includes a penalty of up to 12 months imprisonment which we extended to include GPs, doctors, nurses and midwives working in the community.”

By Steph Brawn and Claire Miller