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12th February 2020 Issue no. 494
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£12m security bill for North East hospitals as thousands of staff and patients are attacked
Health bosses have spent more than £12million on security in the last five years amid a rise in attacks on NHS staff and patients. A total of 4,249 'physical and non-verbal' assaults were recorded at hospitals in the North East between April 2012 and March last year - an average of two a day.
NHS chiefs said attacks on its workers and patients were "completely unacceptable."
Figures released through a Freedom of Information request show The Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spent £5,083,009 on security during the five years. And the trust, which runs Royal Victoria Infirmary and Freeman Hospital, recorded 208 physical incidents in 2012, but this rose to 249 five years later - a 20% increase.
A trust spokesman said: "The safety of our patients and staff is the trust's first priority and we take any incidents of aggression or violence towards staff very seriously. The trust's annual security spend covers the security provision for all of our hospital sites and we have a number of schemes in place to help maintain the safety and wellbeing of our patients and staff."
The County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, which spent £3,107,252 on security, saw a huge 61% increase in the number of physical attacks at its hospitals. It recorded 147 incidents in 2012/13 but 238 assaults were reported five years later.
A trust spokesman said: "Our security team works around the clock, seven days a week, and has a number of responsibilities, principally protecting our buildings and facilities across several sites.
"No one should ever feel at risk of attack while at work and we take the safety of our colleagues very seriously. We have policies, guidance and support in place designed to ensure they are kept as safe as possible.
"We also have robust processes for the occasions when they feel threatened to give them appropriate help and support quickly."
The figures show the City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust spent £3,073,082 on security over five years, while 699 physical and non-verbal attacks were reported.
Meanwhile, the South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust said its security budget is set a £400,000 a year, meaning it could have spent up to £2m between April 2012 and March last year. During this period, health bosses recorded 553 incidents at its hospitals.
A joint statement from the South Tyneside and Sunderland Healthcare Group, which runs hospital services in South Tyneside and Sunderland, said: "The safety and security of our patients, visitors and staff is always a priority and we have security measures in place 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at South Tyneside District Hospital, Sunderland Royal Hospital and Sunderland Eye Infirmary.
"We do not tolerate violent or abusive behaviour of any kind across our organisations and take a very proactive approach to make sure that we meet the highest security standards and protect people within our care.
"The majority of security incidents reported are minor, but we have robust security procedures in place to ensure that any incident can be dealt with quickly and by working closely with the police where necessary."
The figures also revealed Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, spent £1.504,692 on security and recorded 780 incidents.
Andy Colwell, who manages facilities and security at QE Gateshead, said: "Our security team play a vital role in the hospital in protecting staff from abuse, but also providing support and assistance to the public.
"It's important to note that a large proportion of violence against NHS staff in Gateshead is by patients who are unwell with diminished capability, so we need to provide specialist support, training and the appropriate level of intervention and protection. At the hospital we also have a full range of panic alarms, security equipment and CCTV to help ensure the safety of staff and the public."
The Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust refused to disclose how much money it spent on security.
31st January 2018