“No one should come to work and be shouted and sworn at, it’s not acceptable and has an impact on how you feel for the rest of your shift. It also makes you dread coming into work.”
These are the words of a front-line healthcare professional who has faced abusive behaviour from a patient during the coronavirus pandemic.
They come as part of a new campaign that has been launched to urge people using local health and care services to treat staff with kindness and respect as the pandemic continues.
The STOP campaign highlights the impact that abusive behaviour can have on NHS and social care staff during the course of their work.
It has been launched by local health leaders following concerns that aggressive behaviour is increasing in some health and care settings.
The campaign is being promoted across social media, waiting areas and websites over the coming weeks.
At Sirona care & health, which provides NHS funded community health services, incidents at the Minor Injury Units in Yate and Clevedon and the Urgent Treatment Centre in South Bristol are having a big impact on staff welfare.
Janet Rowse, Chief Executive, Sirona care & health, said:
“We fully understand the anxieties, stress and worry that have been caused by the ongoing pandemic and appreciate the toll that this can take on the wellbeing of all of us. My request of you is to be kind to our staff who are all working really hard in challenging circumstances to keep everyone safe.”
Speaking about the campaign, Dr Jon Hayes, local GP and Chair of Bristol, North Somerset & South Gloucestershire CCG, said:
“Any verbal or physical abuse towards staff will not be tolerated and appropriate action will be taken if it does occur.
“Our staff are doing a fantastic job caring for local people during very difficult times and continue to give their all to make sure that people receive high-quality health and care services.
“Everyone should be entitled to work in an environment where they feel safe and free from aggression or abuse.
“The majority of people treated by our staff are grateful for the first class care they receive and we’re grateful to them for continuing to give staff the respect and kindness they deserve.
“However we are hearing anecdotally of an increase in aggression and abuse towards our health and care staff in a range of settings. This is completely unacceptable and the campaign message is very clear that it won’t be tolerated under any circumstances.
“We do know that coronavirus-related precautions mean that waits for appointments and treatments may take longer, but please remember that social distancing arrangements are there to keep patients and staff safe. Please continue to be patient and treat staff with respect.”
Robert Woolley, Chief Executive at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our staff are tirelessly working to care for people in need throughout the pandemic during what continues to be an incredibly challenging year.
“The majority of patients and visitors are respectful appreciative of their efforts, but some patients and families are abusive and intimidating towards our staff. This is an ongoing issue but has got worse since the start of the pandemic.
“We will not tolerate any violence, abusive behaviour or intimidation towards our staff. Please be kind and respect our staff and colleagues working across the health and care sector.”
Evelyn Barker, Chief Executive at North Bristol NHS Trust, said: “Despite the outpouring of love for the NHS over the last year, we are unfortunately still seeing and hearing of staff dealing with abusive and intimidating behaviour from patients and family.
“Our staff are providing care around the clock to people in need, in what is an especially challenging year. Our ask is for you all to please give our colleagues the respect they deserve, and we will continue to support them in addressing behaviour that does not reflect this ask.”
Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor of Bristol City Council with responsibility for Communities, Equalities and Public Health, said: “Our keyworkers are working tirelessly to keep everybody safe, so please treat them as you’d wish to be treated, with respect. Despite a challenging year, Bristol has shown great community spirit for the most part, so let’s continue to work together and show appreciation for our frontline staff. We recognise that this year has been testing for everybody and has required huge amounts of patience with increased demand on our health care services leading to longer wait times for appointments and treatment. However, abuse is unacceptable.”
Local people can help prepare themselves for a visit to our health settings by watching this video, made with health and care staff across the system, which has been put together to show how services are keeping patients safe and what they need to think about before visiting a health site.
Support and advice is available from all providers to help people who have concerns, complaints or grievances about their care. Contact your local Patient Advice and Liaison Service who offer confidential advice, support and information on health-related matters.