Extra police patrols at Sunderland hospital due to patients being 'threatening and abusive'

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Extra police are patrolling a hospital after several incidents involving patients threatening and being abusive towards staff.

Bosses at Sunderland Royal Hospital said the problems stemmed from a “small minority” of people who are drinking alcohol and taking drugs within the grounds.

They are warning medical staff may refuse to treat people behaving inappropriately to protect themselves and other patients.

Some cases have included physical abuse as well as threats.

Barbara Goodfellow, head of nursing, described the situation as “incredibly challenging.”

Barbara Goodfellow, head of nursing at Sunderland Royal Hospital. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

She said: "Clearly at the time it's very distressing for both the staff and the patients but additionally it takes time away from their caring duties while they're dealing with the person who is being violent or aggressive and clearly that draws time away from clinical care."

The hospital is deploying extra security patrols, while there is also a higher police presence, more CCTV and a warning that staff can refuse all but life-saving treatment to abusive patients.

Dr Sean Fenwick, of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: "If you are an in-patient and your behaviour towards staff and other patients falls below a level that we find acceptable and unless you've got a life-threatening illness or an illness that's driving that behaviour, then we will ask you to leave.

“We'll look to different alternatives such as outpatient provision, community provision but certainly they'll be asked to leave the acute site."

The hospital is already subject to an order to prevent people from drinking alcohol on the site and police are working with local businesses to stop the sale of alcohol to hospital patients.

Dr Sean Fenwick, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Operations at Sunderland Royal Hospital. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Dr Fenwick said it was “vital” to differentiate between people who are behaving badly and patients who are acting in a particular manner because of their illness.

He added: “We don't think that there's any risk that we will subject a patient whose behaviour is driven by their illness, being treated differently."

Constable Richard Sawyers, from Northumbria Police, said: “We are aware of concerns raised around recent antisocial behaviour at hospital sites and recognise the adverse impact the minority can have on staff and the wider public.

“Our Blue Light colleagues come to work each day to protect their communities and to help people and do not deserve to face hostility or violence when trying to do their job.

“This behaviour simply won’t be tolerated, and we will take robust action against anyone found to have been involved in recent incidents."

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