Nurses assaulted at work deserve same swift response as Aston Villa footballer

Health professionals too often left waiting for action, says NHS Employers chief executive

Health professionals too often left waiting for action, says NHS Employers chief executive

The spectator who assaulted Championship footballer Jack Grealish was jailed the day
after the match. Picture: PA

Those who attack nurses at work should receive the same swift justice as the spectator who assaulted Aston Villa footballer Jack Grealish, the head of NHS Employers said.

Mr Grealish was assaulted by a pitch invader at a match in Birmingham earlier this month. The following day his attacker, Paul Mitchell, of Rubery, Worcestershire, was jailed for 14 weeks at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court, after admitting assault and invading the pitch.

Waiting too long

NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer told the England chief nursing officer’s summit in Birmingham last week: ‘A man was assaulted and the following day someone was convicted of that assault. There is something about the fact we can do that for a footballer… and we don’t seem to be able to do that when it happens to a nurse.’

Mr Mortimer said nurses and other health professionals understand what constitutes intentional violence from service users, but are too often left waiting for action after an incident. ‘What they do not understand is why those people are not held to account straight away. They should be prosecuted, it should attract as much public vilification as Jack Grealish being assaulted did, it should attract more.’

He said the recently introduced Assaults on Emergency Workers bill was welcome, but it still takes too long for nurses to see justice done.

The legislation means maximum prison sentences are doubled from six to 12 months for those who assault public sector workers in the course of their duty.

‘The public need to know that it is not acceptable’

Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust chief nurse Catherine Pelley, who was also at the summit, said: ‘People think it’s acceptable to come into my hospital and attack my staff, every single day. The public need to know that it is not acceptable, and we need help.’

The trust told Nursing Standard there were 269 reported incidents of either physical or verbal abuse against staff in 2018. 

It has joined forces with local police to launch a local campaign called Operation Cavell, which aims to stop violence against NHS staff.

A National Police Chiefs' Council spokesperson told Nursing Standard that while violence against healthcare staff is inexcusable, the time to resolve cases could vary significantly.

‘Assaults should not be tolerated and cases are progressed as quickly as is practical given the circumstances of each case,’ the spokesperson said.

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