Nearly half a million pounds is being spent by Devon hospitals on private security after an increase in assaults on NHS staff.
A Freedom of Information request has shown the largest spend was at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust which spends an average of £250,000 a year as its staff are assaulted 141 times per year. At the time of the request it said it was unable to provide an exact figure of how much it spent in 2017/18.
Between March 2014 and April 2018 staff at the trust have been physically assaulted 562 times, making an average of 141 assaults per year. The Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital spent £45,933. However, it was significantly less than the previous year when the figure was £75,967.
Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust did not share their private security costs, but the number of physical assaults was 124 in 2017/18, compared with 87 the previous year. Andrew Davies, head of facilities at university Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, said: “The trust has a long term 10 year contract in place with its external services partner Indigo, which includes the provision of security services.
“This includes the following:
- Provision, upgrade, management and maintenance of all CCTV and Access control systems across the Trust’s estate.
- Provision of a full time site based engineer whose responsibilities include ensuring that all security systems are fully operational at all times.
- Provision of two licenced security officers at Derriford Hospital 24/7.
- Provision of building security, key holding and intruder alarm response out of hours.
“The trust takes violence and aggression against its staff extremely seriously and directly employs a dedicated security management specialist and a physical interventions training lead, both of who implement and manage all physical and non-physical approaches to reducing violence and aggression against staff.”
Where appropriate, assaults on staff are reported to the police for investigation and prosecution. In total around England, 53 NHS hospital trusts provided data showing they spent £89m on private security between 2014/15 and 2017/18.
The rest didn’t provide full data in response to the Freedom of Information requests. A spokesperson for the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust and Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust said: “It is really important that our staff feel safe and secure while doing their jobs, and our patients and visitors feel the same when using our services.
“As providers of acute services, we fully recognise that some of our patients may demonstrate challenging behaviour as a result of their medical condition and we will always take a holistic and compassionate approach to these cases. However, we do not tolerate intentional violence, aggression and threatening or abusive behaviour. Where intentional aggression does occur, we will consider a range of appropriate sanctions against those responsible. In addition to having on-site security, we do everything we can to support staff, with clear policies and training to help them safeguard their own safety well-being and that of our patients.”