Police reinforcements deployed in two Northern Ireland emergency departments

RCN Northern Ireland admits violence in EDs is a continuing problem, particularly at weekends

RCN Northern Ireland admits violence in emergency departments is a continuing problem, particularly at weekends

Picture: Alamy

Emergency department (ED) staff in two Northern Ireland hospitals have had to be protected by police officers following scenes the force likened to an ‘EastEnders Christmas Special meets Jeremy Kyle’.

The Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI) deployed 19 officers on 16 February across EDs in Antrim Area and Craigavon Area hospitals.

The PSNI said the officers were with individuals who had been arrested for drink driving, domestic abuse, assaults and road traffic collisions due to alcohol.

'Picking up the pieces'

In a strongly-worded statement on its Facebook page, the PSNI said: ‘The A&E department itself was like an EastEnders Christmas Special meets Jeremy Kyle, with additional local police required to deal with that side of things.

‘It’s part of a wider debate about police resources and police being a general catch-all service expected to plug endless gaps.

‘As is so often the case most of these boil down to individuals and personal responsibility – or rather a severe lack of it, with the expectation that police will just pick up the pieces. The mindset needs to change, it is not sustainable.’

PSNI chief inspector Mervyn Seffen said: ‘When police make an arrest and the detained person requires medical treatment, we may have to transport them to hospital for treatment.

‘Violence in our emergency departments, particularly at the weekend, is a continuing problem'

RCN Northern Ireland acting deputy director Rita Devlin

‘In such cases, as the person is still under arrest, police are required to remain with them until they are seen by medical staff. If they are discharged and fit for interview, they will then be transported back to the police station for interview.’

RCN Northern Ireland acting deputy director Rita Devlin said: ‘Violence in our EDs, particularly at the weekend, is a continuing problem.

‘Not only is it distressing for staff, who are often subjected to either physical or verbal abuse, but it is distressing for other patients waiting in the department, who can be very ill and vulnerable.’

A Northern Health and Social Care Trust spokesperson said: ‘Staff in the Antrim Area Hospital ED work extremely hard, giving the best care to all those presenting to the department and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case, which is completely unacceptable.

‘The safety of those in the ED is always our top priority and when necessary we call the PSNI to make sure we do our best to support our staff and keep them and our service users safe.’

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