Assaults, thefts and security alerts on the rise at Newham University Hospital
12:05 23 March 2016
Overall offences at the Plaistow hospital have almost quadrupled over the last three years, the Recorder can exclusively reveal.
Figures obtained in a Freedom of Information request show the total number of recorded incidents rose from 115 in 2013 to 401 in 2015, an increase of 248 per cent.
Physical assaults by patients against staff have more than doubled while verbal abuse and thefts have quadrupled over the three-year period.
A junior doctor, who works at the hospital and spoke anonymously to the Recorder, said “there was definitely increased anger” from patients because more people were accessing the service.
He said: “Sometimes people are angry and they can’t be helped.”
The NHS worker said “staff and departments are under strain” with the “phenomenal” increase in patients using NHS services, in particular the numbers of older people and younger people seeking support.
He added: “You cannot ignore the effect that this increase in patients has made. Staff are more tired. They are not as able to diffuse [incidents] with these increases.”
He added that he has witnessed “damage to hospital property and crime against the person” but added that hospital bosses did encourage staff “not to accept unacceptable behaviour”.
Statistics also show a huge rise in both patient and staff property thefts. Recorded patient thefts rose from two in 2013 to 13 in 2015, while staff thefts rose from three in 2013 to 19 in 2015.
Staff facilities and spaces squeezed out
Hospital staff risk being “demoralised” by fewer facilities, says our junior doctor.
He said: “Staff are putting up with poorer and poorer facilities to the point that they do not have anywhere to put their belongings.”
He added: “A lot of people drive if they are doing shift work. You can’t have your car keys jangling about your person.”
Our source told us that changing rooms and storage facitilies for staff have been “taken over” as demand for patient facilities have grown.
He said: “The NHS is chronically underfunded and in that case when you’re rationing, no-one is going to put sums of money into staff over patients quite rightly.
“If staff have nowhere to get changed, they are going to be demoralised.”
Our source told us that personal belongings from staff had been taken including handbags and rucksacks, which contained valuables such as wallets and iPhones.
He said: “I know of a lot of people who have had belongings stolen.
“In my experience it is women who are disproportionately affected.”
There were also 35 building security (access control issues) incidents recorded by the hospital in 2015, with 11 taking place during a single month in August. This compares with a total of seven incidents in 2013.
The number of intruders/suspicious persons recorded on hospital grounds leaped from two in 2013 to 15 in 2016, while the number of patient thefts rose from two in 2013 to 13 last year.
A spokeswoman for Barts Health Trust, which runs Newham University Hospital, said the number of hospital security incidents reported had increased “following a change of security provider after the 2013 Trust merger, and we believe that statistics before this date did not provide an accurate picture”.
She added: “Violence towards staff or property theft is entirely unacceptable and we actively encourage all our staff to report any such event so that we can act appropriately to prevent or minimise any future risk. This helps give us a useful indication of where we can do more to ensure the safety of staff, patients and visitors which is our top priority.
“We are committed to listening to our staff to make Newham Hospital the best possible place to work.
“We have made a number of improvements to respond to staff concerns working with security specialists to ensure we follow national guidelines.
“We now have dedicated on-site security operating 24/7 to monitor and respond to any security alerts, and support staff such as by walking them to their cars if their shift finishes late at night.
“We have also increased staff training to reduce the risk of harm if they are faced with handling aggressive confrontations, and to raise awareness of how and when to escalate situations to the security team.
“We are sorry if any member of staff has concerns and strongly urge them to talk to their manager or a member of security.”