Thousands of patients face attacks by other patients

Published date24 January 2023
Publication titleIrish Times (Dublin, Ireland)
Health Editor and BARRY ROCHE

Thousands of patients attending public health facilities are subjected to violence, harassment and aggression by other patients, Health Service Executive figures show.

More than 10,000 such incidents were recorded in 2016, according to information provided by the HSE in response to a parliamentary question. The service has been asked to provide more up-to-date figures.

Of the 10,325 incidents of violence, harassment or aggressive behaviour in that year, 9,536 were perpetrated by service users on other service users.

More extensive information on assaults on staff is available. There were 50,050 assaults on staff in the past five years, according to the HSE. This includes 39,587 direct physical assaults, 274 sexual assaults and 10,189 verbal assaults.

More than 33,000 nurses reported assaults between 2015 and 2021, according to separate figures. The number of assaults reported by nurses averaged more than 5,000 a year until the Covid pandemic when numbers dipped slightly. The HSE has also recorded 733 assaults on medical staff during the six-year period.

The HSE cautions its figures include "near misses" and "no harm incidents" as well as incidents that resulted in a "dangerous occurrence" or complaint. There can also be multiple reports relating to the same incident.

Yesterday, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) called for a security audit to be carried out in the State's hospitals following an incident at the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) in Cork in which a patient was fatally assaulted and a nurse was injured. Matthew Healy (89), a retired farmer, died after allegedly being attacked by another patient, on a general ward in the hospital on Sunday morning. A male nurse suffered a broken finger when he tried to stop the attack.

In a three-month period last summer, the HSE recorded 679 incidents of physical, verbal or sexual assaults against nurses, 323 against "other staff", 72 against...

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