15 December 2021
In an unprecedented move, the 17 chairs of Northern Ireland’s health bodies and the Fire & Rescue Service have come together to call on politicians and the public to Support our Staff – following shocking increases in the levels of violence against staff – up in some cases by over 20%.
Peter McNaney, Chair of the HSC Chairs’ Forum, explains:
“We are appalled by the increase in the levels of violence towards staff who are already exhausted and continuing to care for people in very difficult conditions. This is beyond intolerable. We will discuss concerns with Minister Swann and today we will invite him to support our call to Stop the Abuse.
“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland have recognised the extraordinary efforts of HSC staff. As our staff put themselves at risk to care for the most vulnerable in society during the first lockdown, the public took to their doorsteps to Clap for our Carers.
“Unfortunately, a small minority of people now think it is acceptable to abuse HSC staff. We have heard too many reports of ambulance staff facing intimidation, receptionists at hospitals receiving verbal abuse, and doctors and nurses being threatened and even physically assaulted.
“In the Ambulance Service alone, over 600 incidents of violence and aggression towards staff were recorded in the last year. In my own Trust in Belfast, we recorded over 2,500 physical assaults over a six-month period – a 21% increase on the previous year.”
Eileen Mullan, Chair of the Southern HSC Trust, said:
“This issue goes beyond the Trust – many staff are impacted – GPs, practice staff, dental, pharmacy and ophthalmology employees have all been subjected to rising levels of unacceptable verbal and physical abuse, which has resulted in some cases to staff resigning from their posts. Our staff should never have to encounter abuse or physical harm, and we unequivocally condemn this behaviour.
“Whilst we recognise the genuine frustration of those waiting too long for care, we call on the public to support our HSC staff, who are seeking to provide the best care possible in the circumstances.
Carmel McKinney, Chair of Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, said:
“I am pleased to join HSC chairs in issuing this important statement. When staff experience intimidation or assault, the effects of these incidents are felt by the whole community. Coverage is reduced and response times are longer, as staff are unable to carry on working and we divert crews to attend from other stations. Therefore, people in vulnerable situations are also put at risk.
“Our staff deserve much better and we will continue to do everything we can to support them through this difficult period.”
HSC chairs have today written to every MLA, asking them to be unified in their support for staff and crucial public health messaging. Chairs are also asking the public to remember the importance of taking practical steps to help our health service and those who work in it during this most difficult of winters, by:
- Working from home, where possible
- Wearing a mask in crowded, indoor spaces
- Maintaining good hand hygiene
- Ensuring indoor spaces are well-ventilated
- Self-isolating and getting a PCR test if experiencing Covid-19 symptoms
- Most importantly, we urge people to come forward to receive their Covid-19 vaccine, booster and flu jab when invited.
These are the simple steps we can all take to Support our Staff.