Nurses given bodycams after surge in abuse from patients

A London NHS trust is giving its nurses body-worn cameras and asking the public to be kinder to its healthcare staff, after incidents of violence and abuse more than doubled over three years.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust this week launched its No Abuse No Excuse campaign after staff have been increasingly coming under attack by patients, their relatives and other members of the public.

“I tried to calm [a patient] down. The next thing I knew I was punched in my stomach and landed on the floor”

Yvonne Ihekwoaba

These attacks include racism, threats to kill and physical abuse.

The campaign features testimonies from nurses and other staff from the trust about the abuse they had received in recent years, aiming to raise awareness about the scale of the issue.

Alongside these, the trust is giving staff more powers to curb abuse and increasing the amount of monitoring and security on wards.

Yvonne Ihekwoaba, a registered nurse at the trust, said a patient punched her so hard she was knocked over.

“My patient was verbally abusive when I offered him his medication,” said Ms Ihekwoaba.

“I tried to calm him down. The next thing I knew I was punched in my stomach and landed on the floor. I was in A&E for several hours.”

Yvonne Ihekwoaba

Yvonne Ihekwoaba on the trust’s campaign

The Barking, Havering and Redbridge trust said there were 75 cases of violence and aggression against staff by patients, relatives or visitors in January 2024, compared to 36 in January 2021.

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Alongside this, in the most NHS Staff Survey, the trust saw a 14.5% increase in staff reporting having experienced violence or aggression from patients and the public.

The trust said it was introducing 60 new bodycams for staff, including nurses, for their protection, in areas such as accident and emergency and frailty units.

Currently, the trust has a ‘red card’ system to allow staff to ban an abusive individual from the hospital when it is “clinically safe”. However, it said this had only happened once in five years.

This red card system is being simplified, and the trust said it would now be easier for staff to make use of it.

As well as this, security officers are being given more training and will be made more visible.

Other staff at the trust spoke of similarly distressing incidents while at work.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge security officer Mohammed Islam recalled a patient kicking him in the jaw after tripping during an escort back to their room.

“He broke my teeth, and I was bleeding,” Mr Islam recalled.

“I found it challenging, both physically and mentally, to come back to work again.”

Theo Kayode-Osiyemi, who works in the trust’s appointments team, said he was “often” racially abused and called names while on the job.

Mr Kayode-Osiyemi said: “One day I was told to go to the jungle where I belong.”

Trust chief executive Matthew Trainer said: “Our staff should not be shouted at, hit or subjected to racist abuse while doing their job.

“It’s happening more and more often to colleagues in our hospitals, and we are taking action to respond to their concerns.

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“Our message couldn’t be simpler: no abuse, no excuse.”

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