More than 5,500 attacks on health staff in six months

There have been more than 5,500 attacks on health workers in just six months, sparking calls for the public and politicians to support staff.

Data from Northern Ireland's department of health further suggests that more than 80% of these attacks in the six months to March 2021 were classified as physical.

Health Minister Robin Swann is leading a call by health bodies and the Fire and Rescue Service for the public and for politicians to support staff.

Mr Swann said he takes abuse towards staff "extremely seriously", describing it as "wholly unacceptable".

"Everyone has the right to feel safe from the threat of violence and aggression in the workplace," he said.

"Staff spend their working days caring for others and saving lives, and their safety should be paramount.

"It is wholly unacceptable that they should be abused or attacked in the course of their duties."

Mr Swann said he is committed to reducing the risk of violence and aggression wherever possible and creating a safe environment for staff, patients and others who use the services.

"Unfortunately we are seeing a rise in numbers of attacks and we must all as a society reject such despicable behaviour and protect our frontline staff and services," he said.

"They are already facing unprecedented pressures and need our support now more than ever."

Each health and social care trust operates a local Zero Tolerance on Abuse of Staff policy to manage and minimise the risk to employees.

The policies aim to ensure that all staff are aware of, and are protected from, as far as is reasonably practical, violent or potentially violent situations that may occur within trust facilities and/or whilst staff are on duty.

Trusts have established a regional Zero Tolerance Task and Finish Group which has been working in collaboration with a range of key stakeholders to develop a regional Managing Violence and Aggression policy framework.