Swearing, shouting and violence - NHS staff 'scared' to go to work as abuse rises

  • Watch Richard Payne's report

Healthcare workers in the Bristol area say they are fearing for their safety at work following a rise in attacks.

As demand has risen to higher levels than before the pandemic, so has the level of abuse - with staff regularly being shouted at, sworn at or even physically abused.

Healthcare staff have told ITV News West Country they feel "demoralised" - as NHS workers have gone from being hailed as heroes during the pandemic to being abused.

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust said incidents of violence and aggression have jumped nearly 50% in a year.

It means there were just short of 1,400 incidents in the year up to March 2021.

"We are seeing record numbers of patients," Hannah Walker, a sister in the emergency department at Bristol Children's Hospital told ITV News.

"Staff don't feel safe coming to work.

"I also have concern for the safety of other children that attend the department because you would never want them to be involved in or have to witness something that isn't appropriate for them to see."

An online campaign featuring those under attack started in an effort to educate the public.

Yate's Minor Injuries Unit is commissioned to treat 60 patients day but regularly see more than double that. Police have recently given staff advice on how to stay safe in the face of aggressive people.

Patient numbers seen by Deputy Matron Lizzy Hooper have doubled in recent months Credit: ITV News

Deputy Matron Lizzy Hooper said: "The NHS has had a really tough year.

"I think we all feel a bit demoralised that this time last year, as a nation, the NHS was the nation's hero with the Clap for Carers. And this year all we're asking is a bit of understanding and a bit of support and courtesy when patients come and see us."

Average wait times at the Yate MIU have been just short of two hours, even as much as four.

"A lot of patients are unhappy with having to wait a little longer because we're so busy," Lizzy said.

"That's causing quite a lot of frustration and we're getting a lot of verbal aggression and attitudes of some people are making it quite a challenging environment to work in at the moment."

Donna Walker is a receptionist at Yate Minor Injuries Unit. She said patients will often swear and shout at staff.

"We try to tell them where else they can possibly go to, or when to come back, but they're not happy with our answers and so have a real go at us," she said.