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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
May 21, 2006

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Hospital failed to protect staff from assailant known to be a threat

The state of security in Scottish hospitals was highlighted recently by the prosecution of another NHS Board following a violent incident at Ayr hospital on 3 July 2003.


Ayr Sheriff Court heard on 28 March that a person who was known to have a history of grudges against NHS staff in Ayrshire, and who had recently been released from a secure mental institution, entered the hospital’s A&E department with a knife. When the assailant grabbed a nurse working by herself and put a knife to her throat, two other nurses tried to intervene; cuts were inflicted on the nurses in the ensuing struggle.

HSE principal inspector Douglas Philp told SHP that Ayrshire and Arran Health Board had been notified of the person’s release and warned of the potential danger posed to A&E staff by the lack of security, but no proper risk assessment had been carried out. An attempt at a risk assessment remained in draft format.

The HSE had previously inspected the Board and given advice on issues including inadequacies in the hospital’s systems for managing violence and aggression. “There was a lack of secure doors between waiting and treatment areas,” said inspector Philp.

The Board was fined £6400 after pleading guilty to breaching s2(1) of HSWA 1974 by not ensuring the safety of its employees.

In a previous case of assault on NHS staff in Scotland, heard in September 2005, Western Isles Health Board was fined £7500 for failing to safeguard staff from violence and aggression in the A&E department at Stornoway hospital. In this instance, a patient threatened and chased a nurse and doctor.

Inspector Philp said: “The Board had complied with an improvement notice to provide controlled access shortly after the incident.” He added: “The HSE takes violence against NHS staff very seriously. NHS Trusts need to recognise that they have duties under the HSWA to assess the risks and put practical control measures in place.

“We hope the fine imposed sends a warning to other Trusts to ensure they have reviewed their procedures to prevent such serious incidents from happening again.”


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