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The Chesterfield Royal Hospital is reminding patients and visitors of their responsibilities following an increase in incidents of violence and aggression against staff.

A series of posters are being put up across the Trust that serve as a reminder to the public, as well as support for staff in how to deal with patients or visitors who become aggressive. This includes advice about how to address such a situation, directions to internal policies and education as well as brief examples of how colleagues can stay safe if a situation escalates quickly.

The show of support came after a colleague raised a concern anonymously to Abbey Harris, the Trust’s Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, to voice concerns about the escalating problem. 

Abbey said: “The issue detailed a mounting concern that the safety of our colleagues in certain areas could be at risk. The individual talked about staff being threatened, both verbally and physically, by patients and felt compelled to take it further because there was a feeling that staff were vulnerable.

“I met with our Health and Wellbeing lead Leanne Featherstone and Ged Holland who manages Security to see what we could do to address it and we realised that there were standards in place but that not everyone was necessarily aware. We thought that some easy to find reminders in areas that we identified as being potential hotspots for incidents would be a good start to remind staff that there is more help out there.”

The Trust offers regular conflict resolution and clinical holding training to go alongside existing trust policies regarding security management, managing challenging behaviour and lone working. The poster also highlights in bold the three key things to remember including the security contact number, keeping a physical distance and to keep yourself between the person and the door.

Ged Holland is the Trust’s Security Management Specialist, he said: “It was an important issue to raise and it’s vital that all incidents of violence and aggression are reported to give us an idea of what’s happening and where our training can help. It’s also fair to say that the majority of cases involve a medical factor such as delirium or dementia where patients can become highly agitated very quickly. On the occasions where a medical factor isn’t involved, the Trust is committed to reporting all incidents of violence toward staff to the Police. This is why it’s important that staff take up the offer of conflict resolution training.

“There are some very simple things that we can do to ensure we keep ourselves safe, such as keeping our distance when an individual becomes aggressive, calling security for help and using calming techniques. All of these are covered in our course so, for us, it’s about raising awareness of the tools that are available to staff to help them if they find themselves in such a situation.”

Chief Executive of the Royal, Angie Smithson added: “All our staff work incredibly hard to treat our patients with compassion; they should be able to do this without fear of intimidation or abuse. We adopt a zero tolerance approach to violence against our staff and I’m encouraged that people are coming forward with their concerns so that we can help address them. 

“Whilst I know that some of the incidents are due to the patient’s condition, by acknowledging this and providing support for our staff to use the skills to mitigate these situations, we can help reduce the number of incidents and create a better working environment for our teams.”

It’s a great example of the Trust acting on concerns raised in confidence through the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, designed to highlight issues that can affect patient and staff safety and experience.

Abbey added: “I’d like to thank our colleague for raising this; a problem which is backed up by statistics and has given us the impetus to further promote what we’re already doing. We’ve acted because someone has spoken up about a concern and we’ve been able to share the learning from this across the Trust, with the full support of the Board. I hope that this serves to encourage others to speak up about any work-related worry with the confidence that it will be appropriately addressed.”

Above, pictured left to right, Ged Holland (Security Management Specialist), Leanne Featherstone (Health and Wellbeing Lead), Angie Smithson (Chief Executive), Abbey Harris (Freedom to Speak Up Guardian).