22 November 2017

SaTH has issued a warning to those who behave anti-socially at its two acute hospitals – it will not be tolerated.

Warning letters are always sent to those found intentionally acting in anti-social way at the Princess Royal Hospital (PRH), the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) or any of the Trust’s other sites, while those being physically abusive could face prosecution. The Trust continuously works and supports local police with ongoing investigations and prosecutions into anti-social and/or aggressive behaviour. Two recent prosecutions include criminal damage at the PRH, and drunk and disorderly at the RSH.

The letters, which are signed by the Chief Executive, are issued to those who have been verbally abusive or physically aggressive to staff in the course of their duty. They warn the recipients that they could have non-life threatening or routine treatment withheld if they repeat their behaviour. In 2016/2017 50 letters were sent and, as a result of those, no-one who returned for treatment repeated their behaviour.

Since 2009, the number of intentional incidents – verbal and physical – at the two hospitals has decreased. Intentional incidents are where the perpetrator was not deemed to have any reasonable excuse for their behaviour, such as an underlying medical condition or illness, or reaction to a prescribed treatment. The Trust does not see misuse of alcohol or drugs as excuses for bad behaviour, as in law they are seen as aggravating factors not mitigating factors.

The number of intentional incidents of anti-social behaviour in 2016/2017 was recorded at 109 – 45 at the RSH and 64 at PRH. Of those, 31 involved physical contact (which includes spitting) and 78 were non-physical (verbal abuse, threatening and intimidating behaviour, racial abuse and abusive phone calls).

Despite seeing fewer incidents, the Trust remains committed in its efforts to ensure the safety of its staff working in its hospitals and this week launches a zero tolerance campaign to send out the message that any anti-social behaviour will be dealt with by way of warning letter, or the Trust will support prosecution.

Simon Wright, Chief Executive, said: “Our staff deserve to be able to go about their duties without fear of aggression – verbal or physical. Anyone who behaves anti-socially should be warned that it will not be tolerated. It could result in prosecution, or the risk of non-urgent treatment being stopped.”

The warning letters are just one of the initiatives that SaTH has in place to curb anti-social behaviour. Other actions include:

  • Body worn video cameras used by security staff, which record acts or threats of violence or aggression; any intimidating or unreasonable behaviour; acts or threats of criminal behaviour including actual or attempted vandalism or criminal damage – and acts of verbal or racial abuse or anti-social behaviour
  • Security teams on duty 24/7 at both hospitals
  • Lone worker pagers
  • CCTV

Jon Simpson, Trust Security Manager, said: “The Trust is proactive when it comes to the safety of staff. The Trust was the first in the West Midlands to use body worn cameras to help collect information for police, and these have been successful. The Trust’s policy of sending letters to individuals who have been verbally abusive at our hospitals is also working. 

“That’s not to say we have a problem at either of our hospital sites – the number of incidents remains low, particularly in comparison to hospitals in more urban areas. They are also not just happening in A&E as people believe, there is no stereotype. These incidents have happened on in-patient wards as well as outpatients clinics – and at any time of day not just on a Friday or Saturday night. The message is simple. Anti-social behaviour – whether verbal or physical – will not be tolerated. And we will continue to remain proactive in our efforts to keep staff, and patients safe.”