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16 October 2003

UNISON accuses Scottish Executive of complacency as Scottish nurses are stabbed, head-butted, sexually assaulted and threatened with guns

Scotland's largest health care union, UNISON today (Thursday) accused the Scottish Executive of complacency in its dealings with the health and safety of Scotland's 135,000 health service workers.

Speaking at a *Health and Safety Conference in Edinburgh, Jim Devine, UNISON's Scottish Organiser (Health) said, "Two years ago, over a relatively short period of time, there were 112 physical assaults on doctors and nurses at the Victoria Infirmary in Glasgow including one sexual assault. At the Southern General there were 166 physical assaults including one incident where a patient threatened a junior doctor with a knife.

"This year, while working in the Scottish NHS nurses have been stabbed, head-butted, sexually assaulted and threatened with guns. During the summer in a London hospital a nurse was murdered while on duty.

"Against this background of increased violence against health service workers, one has to ask what the Scottish Executive's response has been. Sadly, the only conclusion you can reach is that it is one of complacency.

"Today there is no standard definition of physical and verbal abuse applying throughout the Scottish Health Service and as a consequence the statistics that are supplied by most Trusts are almost meaningless. Unless a serious incident has occurred it is not recorded.

"Training and preventative strategies are inconsistent, while recording procedures are complex and time consuming. Even simple poster campaigns are absent from most hospitals. The last Conservative Government introduced a Patients Charter with a great deal of razzmatazz and resources. It is time a similar initiative was taken for Scotland's 135,000 NHS staff. Jim Devine is calling on the Scottish Executive to introduce UNISON's 6-point action plan.

This demands:

* The Scottish Health Minister and NHS trade unions jointly issue a Staff Charter, reminding the public that it is not part of an NHS worker's job to be physically or verbally abused at work.

* The standardisation throughout Scotland of the definition, recording and follow up of violent and potentially violent incidents, including verbal abuse, for all NHS staff. More Follows/P2 P2- Nursing staff attacked/UNISON accuses Scottish Executive

* An agreed training course on the management of violent or potentially violent incidents for all NHS staff.

* The introduction of a 'yellow and red card' warning system to members of the public who consistently abuse NHS staff. These warnings could lead to the banning of individuals from NHS premises if they persistently physically or verbally abuse staff.

* Relatives who physically abuse NHS staff must be automatically charged and prosecuted by the Procurator Fiscal.

* Every NHS worker in Scotland has a duty of care to her/himself and to her/his colleagues, to use the reporting system for every incident, and accept and expect that zero tolerance is not just the preferred but the only option.


*Conference will be held in the Crown Plaza Hotel, 80 High Street, Royal Mile, Edinburgh.

For Further Information Please Contact: Jim Devine, Scottish Organiser 0845 355 0845(w) 07876 441239(m) Chris Bartter, Communications Officer, 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)

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