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September 13, 2009

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Wales frames deal to protect NHS workers

The Welsh health minister has signed an agreement with the Police to

allow them to work more closely with the NHS in Wales when

investigating cases of violence and aggression against health-care workers.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), signed by health minister Edwina Hart on 14 September, includes new protocols on the investigation of incidents; the referral of cases to the Police; evidence-gathering and the provision of statements; post-incident reviews and support for victims when their case has progressed to court.

In 2007/08 there were 7343 incidents of violence and aggression in the NHS in Wales, but there are concerns that many incidents go unreported because health-care workers do not believe a prosecution will follow.

Signing the agreement on a visit to the Accident and Emergency Department at Morriston Hospital, Swansea, Mrs Hart said: “It is unacceptable that NHS staff face wilful violence and aggression in going about their day-to-day duties caring for patients.

“Some incidents may take the form of verbal abuse while others may lead to physical assaults. However, neither is acceptable and cause unnecessary stress to staff who are trying to do their job.”

The MoU not only follows the signing of an agreement with the Crown Prosecution Service in March 2007, to ensure effective prosecution of violent offenders, but also builds on a new requirement arising out of the forthcoming reorganisation of the NHS in Wales.

The restructure will create local health organisations responsible for delivering all healthcare services within a geographical area. Each organisation will be required to appoint named individuals at both executive director and non-officer levels, who will have a specific responsibility for dealing with violence within their own establishments and deliver regular reports on violence and aggression at board meetings.

Signing the Memorandum on behalf of the four Welsh police forces, Barbara Wilding, chief constable of South Wales Police, said: “We will not tolerate doctors, nurses, or any other health-care professionals being subject to verbal abuse and violence while they are simply doing their job in treating patients.

”I hope this agreement reassures NHS staff that we are here to support them and that all incidents will be dealt with appropriately.”

Welcoming the agreement, Tina Donnelly, director of the Royal College of Nursing Wales, said: “A strong commitment is imperative to reducing violent and aggressive behaviour and eliminating barriers to reporting incidents of violence.

”It is important to establish a culture of acceptance for reporting violent incidents as this is a positive step toward creating a safer work environment. Procedures for reporting violent incidents should be clear and staff should have access to care and counselling following an incident, if needed.”

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