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Aggressive patients could be shown ‘red card’ as hospital bids to curb abuse

Death threats, physical abuse and racist slurs aimed at NHS workers has prompted one hospital to make it easier for staff to “red card” violent and abusive patients.

Aggressive patients or visitors could be banned from Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust for up to 12 months.

The trust has also started using a series of body cameras in a bid to curb violence and aggression towards health workers after cases at the East London/Essex trust have doubled in the last three years.

Trust workers have been punched, subject to racist slurs – including being told to “go back to the jungle” – and had their teeth broken by violent patients.

As a result, hospital bosses have launched a new campaign – ‘No Abuse, No Excuse’ – to reduce violence and aggression towards staff, which includes:

– The introduction of 60 body cameras for staff in areas such as A&E and frailty units.

– Easier policies to ban patients or visitors, with bans which can last for up to a year.

– An increased visibility of security staff.

– A “de-escalation” training course for trust employees.

Staff who have faced abuse have become the face of the campaign.

Nurse Yvonne Ihekwoakba said: “My patient was verbally abusive when I offered him his medication. 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.”

Security officer, Mohammed Islam, added: “I tripped taking a patient back to his room and he kicked me in the jaw. He broke my teeth, and I was bleeding. I found it challenging, both physically and mentally, to come back to work again.”

Theo Kayode-Osiyemi, from the appointments team, said: “I have often been abused racially and called names that are not pleasant to hear or repeat. One day I was told to ‘go to the jungle where I belong’.”

A trust spokeswoman said that the organisation was making it “more straightforward” for staff to “red card”, or ban, an abusive patient from its hospitals “when it is clinically safe to do so”.

Under the existing, more complicated, rules, this has only happened once in the past five years.

The spokeswoman said that in January 2021 there were 36 incidents of violence and aggression against staff by patients, relatives or visitors at the trust’s hospitals – King George Hospital in Goodmayes and Queen’s Hospital in Romford. In January 2024, this rose to 75.

Matthew Trainer, trust chief executive, 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.

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

Figures from the 2022 NHS Staff Survey show that across England, 28% of staff had been subject to harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, their relatives or other members of the public while at work.