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FACE MASKS: More violence towards hospital staff

FACE MASKS: More violence towards hospital staff

The Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, Image: NCJ Media

Newcastle’s hospital staff are being subjected to more acts of violence and aggression for continuing to ask people to wear face masks.

Ongoing safety measures to try and prevent the spread of Covid-19 within the city’s hospitals after the end of legal lockdown restrictions has caused a rise in attacks on NHS heroes, a senior health official has reported.

It was revealed in July that there were more than 900 physical or verbal assaults on hospital workers in Newcastle from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 – a jump of around 17% since pre-pandemic times.

But Caroline Docking, assistant chief executive at the Newcastle Hospitals trust, said on Wednesday that there has been a new “uptick in violence and aggression” recently.

She told Newcastle’s City Futures Board that there had been “very low levels” of Covid infections spreading through the Royal Victoria Infirmary and Freeman Hospital thanks to stringent control measures, such as still asking people to wear masks and socially distance when they step inside.

She added: “Unfortunately, some people are not very keen to do that and we are seeing a bit of an uptick in violence and aggression towards our staff. That is really, really disappointing.

“I completely appreciate that people are frustrated and tired and they have been through an awful lot, but I would like to have a conversation with partners about how we can think about tackling that as a city because I think it is something we could probably have a bit of an impact on.”

Coun Karen Kilgour, deputy leader of Newcastle City Council, called it “absolutely unacceptable behaviour”.

The board was told that the number of patients in Newcastle’s hospitals with Covid-19 is “fairly constant” at around 50.

Prof Eugene Milne, the city’s public health director, said that  only around a tenth of those people have been admitted to hospital as a direct result of Covid – though those people “may well be really quite sick and tend to be people who are not vaccinated or are partially vaccinated”.

Ms Docking added that hospitals are still facing “significant pressures” caused by the virus, a huge backlog of work, and severe strain on emergency care services – with A&E staff currently dealing with winter levels of demand every day.

She praised NHS workers for “continuing to give absolutely everything to treat as many people as they possibly can and keep everything safe” and urged anyone who is yet to get a Covid-19 vaccine to come forward for their jab.

Ms Docking said: “We have routinely got around 50 patients with Covid in the trust. Some of that is incidental and some of that is really severe illness.

“All of those patients need to be looked after in a particular way and with particular infection control measured around them, which is an additional pressure – that is two wards of patients that we would probably not have had before the pandemic started.

“It is important to say that the people we are seeing who are very sick and are dying, very sadly, are, in the main, unvaccinated. That clear message about getting a vaccination and protecting yourself is still a very important one to make and we should not assume that job is done.”

 

Words: Daniel Holland, Local Demcoracy Reporter


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