Would your healthcare staff know how to protect themselves?

Updated: Jun 28

Front line workers are suddenly finding themselves in the first line of defense – and healthcare workers are bearing the brunt of the force. But it shouldn’t be accepted as part of the job and thankfully, with the right training, most situations can be diffused before they escalate. So, would your staff know how to cope with a threatening or violent situation?

The British Medical Association has said it is “no surprise” that those working in front line healthcare are experiencing an increase in aggression and violence, because of the national “lack of capacity” and “lack of historic investment in general practice”.

There are already 2,000 fewer General Practitioners (GPs) than there were in 2015. But, as the population continues to grow with unrealistic building targets, services like hospitals, schools and doctors surgeries are buckling under the strain as communities grow, but investment shrinks.

Criminal acts of violence at GP surgeries across the UK have almost doubled in five years. According to the British Medical Journal, which sent a freedom of information request to 45 police forces in the UK asking for the number of recorded crimes committed at GP surgeries, there were 1,068 criminal incidents of violence at health centres and surgeries in 2021-22.

This compares to 791 in 2020-21 and 586 in 2017-18. Within these figures, there were 182 assaults resulting in injury last year, the highest for five years and almost double the 98 recorded in 2017-18.

And the reports keep coming. In a recent BBC News report, statistics from the Pharmacist’s Defense Association (PDA) said 468 of 550 pharmacists surveyed – some 85% – said that they, or someone they work with, experienced verbal or racial abuse in the previous month while at work.

Staff named things like shortages of lateral flow testing kits which earlier this year resulted in a spike of aggression from patients. In recent weeks, a shortage of Hormone Replacement Therapy has been an added pressure.

According to some pharmacists, the majority of violent or abusive incidents are triggered by:

  • addiction services failing to provide support for recovering addicts

  • overwhelmed GP surgeries being unable to give a patient an appointment

  • supply chain issues leaving a pharmacy without stocks of prescribed drugs

Staff shortages continue to add more pressure, and increase waiting times and frustration, in community pharmacies. However, it’s hardly surprising that these incidents may affect recruitment to the sector.

A recent Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee survey of 1,000 team members, carried out in January 2022, revealed low job satisfaction scores.

Increased levels of abuse will no doubt have a significant impact on the mental health, wellbeing and morale of individual doctors and practice staff.

The Health and Safety Executive requires employers by law to ensure their staff are kept safe at all times – and this includes the threat of violence or aggression.

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states employers must, so far as it is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 adds to this, that employers must consider the risks to employees (including the risk of reasonably foreseeable violence); decide how significant these risks are, decide what to do to prevent or control the risks, and develop a clear management plan to achieve this.

Jake Attard, Director at SBRT, said: “Employers must ensure all staff training is up to date so that they are fully equipped to carry out their jobs safely and effectively. Some are concerned they may not be strong enough to defend themselves, but the good news is that our courses are focussed on diffusing aggressive situations and, on the occasions where self defence is required, we teach simple, effective techniques that do not require strength – so they are suitable for anyone to use.”

Courses can be taught in under a day and can either be taught with single delegates or in groups.

Click here for more information about our training courses and to book your place.

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