Nurse calls for action to stop attacks by patients

A nurse who works in the Scottish Borders says more needs to be done to keep staff safe from patients attacking them.

Recent figures released by NHS Borders has shown there has been more than 400 reported assaults on nurses and midwives in the last year.

Karen Lawrie has worked as a mental health nurse in the Borders for two decades and says assaults on staff are common - but believes many go unreported.

Karen says she has received a "whole number of different types of assault, starting from abuse, swearing, head butting, kicking and biting."

She said: "I remember being head butted by a patient and being taken to A&E, I remember someone was throttled. If you look at the sickness absence, it's pretty high when working for the NHS."


assaults on nurses and midwives.

In 2018, there were 172 attacks on NHS staff at Borders General Hospital and around 162 in mental health units.

The majority of the incidents involved physical aggression by patients while 13 were regarded as improper sexual behaviour.

On seven occasions, weapons were involved in the attacks and three people had to be physically restrained.

Karen Lawrie, mental health nurse Credit: ITV Border

NHS Borders have said they have a zero tolerance policy towards violence and aggression…and that it is crucial staff have the confidence to report incidents.

Nicky Berry, Director of Nursing and Midwifery, NHS Borders says: "Every member of staff within NHS Borders is a dedicated member of staff so we do take this seriously, that's just about one member of staff a day, and they should be able to do their job without any fear of violence, aggressive or abusive behaviour.

"We do not expect that, there is a zero tolerance policy and we ask staff to contact Police Scotland if there's been any violent, aggressive or abusive behaviour, we want them to escalate that to their line manager so we can actually do something about the information we're getting."

Credit: PA

Unison have said they are working closely with NHS Borders to address the situation.

Greig Kelbie from Unison Scotland, said: "Nobody goes to their work to be assaulted, one assault is one too many and that;s why we've been leading proactively on a local campaign on this issue."Record it and report it, that is our mantra and that is what we are encouraging our members and staff to do.

"Staff are leaving the service it's hard to retain staff, we're seeing an overstretched and very stressed workforce and these assaults and violent incidents are happening with that very much in the background.

"We have written to the chief executive for a sit down to sit and discuss what measures they're taking to deal with the findings from this report and how we as a union can work in partnership through that process."

Watch Clare McNeill's full report here:

  • If you would like to read more about dealing with violence and aggression in the workplace in the NHS, there is more information on the NHS Employers website.