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April 26, 2009

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Wales launches CCTV trial to protect NHS staff

CCTV cameras will be installed in four Welsh hospitals as part of a

12-month trial designed to help protect NHS staff from violence and

abuse.

Figures for 2006/07 show there were 8466 incidents of violence against NHS staff, ranging from verbal abuse to serious physical assaults.

Announcing the pilot on 24 April, the Welsh Assembly Government’s health minister, Edwina Hart, said she hoped the trial would provide more evidence to prosecute offenders when incidents of aggression against staff occur.

If the trial proves successful in reducing incidents and increasing the number of prosecutions, the initiative will be rolled out across Wales.

Mrs Hart said: “Violence and aggression against staff is totally unacceptable and I am determined to stamp out this behaviour. I have made clear that the perpetrators of attacks on staff should be prosecuted. There is an agreement in place between the Assembly Government, NHS, Association of Chief Police Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service on the prosecution of those who are violent and aggressive against NHS staff.

“I hope through prosecuting more people, and with the cameras in place, people will think twice before abusing staff who are there to try and help and care for them.”

David Francis, who has been appointed by the Assembly Government to lead on activities aimed at tackling violence and aggression, added: “In developing the CCTV pilots we have worked closely with staff, and have had very good support from the Police.

“The intention is to gather the best possible evidence to underpin prosecution of people attacking NHS staff. It will also demonstrate to our employees, wherever they may work, that NHS Wales is determined to confront violent behaviour and properly support victims.”

Cameras will be installed in clinical and non-clinical areas in four major accident and emergency departments. The hospitals involved in the trial are: Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr Tydfil; Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport; West Wales General Hospital, Carmarthen; and Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor. A number of ambulances from Blackweir ambulance station in Cardiff will also be equipped with CCTV.

The Assembly Government is also exploring ways to improve protection and safety of lone workers in the NHS in Wales. One possibility includes the use of personal safety alarms, which are linked to a centralised control centre.

The minister commented: “I am keen to provide further protection for lone workers, who, for example, may be in a patient’s home, working in an isolated or rural area, or working at night, or away from the main hospital building. It is important that lone workers have the assurance of being able to raise the alarm if they feel they are in a threatening situation.”

Dave Galligan, head of health at UNISON, welcomed the proposals. He said: “NHS staff have the right to not expect violence or aggression from either patients, relatives, visitors, or the general public.  

“In particular, lone workers will now have more security from their ability to make contact with the control centre. However, when all these measures are in place we would expect to see a reduction in the number of reported incidents from the currently very high and unacceptable level.”

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