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Workplace violence and aggression highest ‘cause of harm’

By David Lynch - 08th Oct 2023


Incidents of workplace violence, harassment, and aggression remain the highest reported “cause of harm” for staff within the health service, a HSE committee was told earlier this year.

This is despite an overall decrease in reported incidents since 2018.

Concerns were raised over the issue at the HSE people and culture committee in May.

The committee discussed data from the internal management data dashboard regarding “causes of harm” during the first quarter of this year. The committee noted “that violence, harassment, and aggression was the highest reported item”, according to the minutes.

There was also a briefing on latest data in relation to workplace violence and aggression, where it was noted that there had been “a welcome decrease in violent incidents”.

“Violence and aggression against nursing staff has decreased; however, it is acknowledged that healthcare assistants are more exposed to intentional or unintentional physical assault due to the nature of their role in personal care,” according to the minutes.

On the figures for the first quarter of this year, a HSE spokesperson clarified that “it is not unusual” for workplace violence, harassment, and aggression “to be the top cause of harm combined across all HSE sites and services”.

“The majority of these incidents… (96 per cent) involve interactions with a service user,” a HSE spokesperson told the Medical Independent.

They noted there had been a 20 per cent decrease in the number of incidents over a five-year period from 2018-2022.

There were 9,249 incidents in 2022 compared to 11,674 in 2018.

However, “incidents of violence, harassment, and aggression… still remain the highest incident type that causes harm”.

Meanwhile, a recent survey in Ireland from the Medical Protection Society found that 60 per cent of doctors have experienced or witnessed verbal or physical abuse from patients or their relatives within the past 12 months.

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