Readers panel: Will seeking samples from patients who bite or spit at nurses make a bad situation worse?
Draft legislation designed to protect emergency workers from assault includes proposals to take blood and saliva samples from people who have bitten or spat at nurses. Those who refuse could be fined up to £500. The RCN has questioned whether it is ethical or practical to take samples from people who already feel threatened or may be confused or unconscious. Nursing Standard readers have their say.
Draft legislation designed to protect emergency workers from assault includes proposals to take blood and saliva samples from people who have bitten or spat at nurses. Those who refuse could be fined up to £500. The RCN has questioned whether it is ethical or practical to take samples from people who already feel threatened or may be confused or unconscious. Nursing Standard readers have their say
Pete Hawkins is a staff nurse in an emergency department in Bristol
Many of my emergency department and paramedic colleagues have said they would rather be physically hit than spat on, which is a particularly unpleasant and worrying form of assault. Instances of violence against staff are rising as the service struggles to keep pace with increasing demand and I welcome any measures to tackle this. Some emergency workers, including the police, are given ‘spit kits’ so they can collect a DNA sample from wet saliva following a spitting incident. Why not supply nurses with these too?
Liz Charalambous is a staff nurse and PhD student in Nottingham
While I applaud strategies to maximise workplace safety, I am unsure how much of a deterrent this proposal will be if patients are confused, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. I also fear this punitive approach is underpinned by a sinister philosophy of power, control and surveillance, rather than an altruistic need to maintain staff safety. Surely it would make more sense to directly address the underlying problems that can exacerbate such incidents, such as a shortage of staff?
Daniel Athey is a charge nurse on an acute medical unit in Sheffield
Having experienced this while working in an emergency department, I understand that the hurt and anger caused by being bitten or spat on is immeasurable. But when someone is in the mindset to assault a nurse in this way, the financial implications of their actions are unlikely to be part of their thinking, and threatening them with a £500 fine is inadequate. I would support giving the money to the nurse, to help ease the emotional distress caused by this type of attack.
Jane Scullion is a respiratory nurse consultant in Leicester
No healthcare professional should have to put their own health at risk by being bitten or spat at. Not only is this behaviour unacceptable, it is a criminal offence and can cause untold stress for the nurse involved. Fining people who refuse to have a blood or saliva sample taken after biting or spitting at a nurse could act as a deterrent and make people think twice before carrying out this type of assault. There are no mitigating circumstances.
Readers panel members give their views in a personal capacity only