Alarming trend: Violence whilst in the line of duty

The Police have always been a high risk group when it comes to work place violence of this nature, in fact dealing and defending themselves in such situations forms part of a police officers basic training.

Although having said that, being slapped around and assaulted or worse, is not really one of the main attractions that draws young officers to a career in the police service?

Although in recent months and in the case of the GHA and Hospital there have been some very serious problems and issues to contend with.

Great concerned has been expressed regarding the many incidents of aggression and violent behaviour directed at the Nursing Staff, this has been a big problem and an on going concern particularly to Hospital Staff and GHA Executives. The number of violent incidents has increased along with the severity of these cases. Take late last year the ‘stabbing of a doctor’ on duty at the A&E Department, this clearly bought the whole matter to a head, this incident saw a local man charged for ‘Attempted Murder’

Statistics also show that nurses working in the Accident and Emergency Departments (A&E) are most likely to face violent and aggressive outbursts from patients, family or visitors.

There are many who say and think that these type incidents against members of the emergency services reflect the general increase in violence in our society!

The Police have a duty to protect life and safeguard property. The nature of their job means that it is normal for an officer to be in contact with potentially violent people. A Police Officer protects the public from crime - deterring, investigating, apprehending and prosecuting criminal offenders. The majority of police officers carry out lone working duties for a very good percentage of their time. Officers are in fact mobile workers, for example when on patrol; they are more likely to encounter a violent situation which will require them to put their training into practice and good use, but the element of danger or of a serious violent incident is always there!

Violent and aggressive incidents have made life sometimes dangerous, if not uncomfortable for doctors and nurses. It really is sad when you think that staff at the hospital particularly at the A&E at St Bernard’s – who work incredibly hard to help and treat members of the public in their hour of need – have to endure physical and verbal attacks from what can only be described as a small minority of patients, families and visitors.

Again a few days ago this issue was again highlighted when RGP officers stopped three men who than went about brandishing a knife at the officers causing injury, another also kicked out causing the officer to fall and facture his ankle which required an emergency operation and I would imagine a long period sidelined from performing normal duties, which in turn has its own knock on effect on the force.

On the GHA front hospital staff have been very concerned and unhappy with the level of violent incidents and the level of protection whilst on duty. The stabbing last November of a GHA staff member outraged everyone, it resulted in a review and a beefing up of security arrangements at the hospital and other measures introduced with agreement of staff.

Rising Cost of Security Arrangements The effects of the increase in violence at the hospital has also been felt in other areas, with security arrangements having been stepped-up the cost for maintaining a safe environment for staff, patients and visitors to the hospital has also increased together with added financial burden on tax payers.

Due to the nature of both the Police and Health Care Workers and others, there is no doubt that from time to time they may be faced with angry, hostile or verbally abusive and aggressive individuals who may be defendants in a policing scenario or a patient, relative or friend at a similar scene at the hospital. There may be a wide range of reasons for such behaviour, ranging from a medical or medical illness to criminal intent, but too often Alcohol or Drugs or both have not been to far away or in the thick of things, in fact a major trigger of violence and aggression are related to these substances!!

All the violent and aggressive behaviour towards this ‘Essential Group of Workers’ who in effect provide a vital 24 hour service to the community can not be viewed or dealt with lightly, in fact it very much highlights the appalling reality that a minority in Gibraltar have of ‘no respect not only for the law, but also for those (in the case of the police) tasked with enforcing it, unfortunately this is the sort of stories we hear of regularly’

Government Failing Miserably

‘Drug Abuse and Anti-Social Behaviour’ have been on the increase for a number of years, there are hardly any signs that anyone is interested in finding out why these incidents have increased, or of taking any measures or tackling the problem in any effective manner?

As I have said before the police require the appropriate support to tackle crime, support comes in many ways and this is where ‘Government is Failing Miserable’ they have sat back and done very little regarding the abuse of Drugs and Alcohol and associated problems. ‘Government Priorities are also back to front’ when it comes to introducing new legislation in this respect; my views are well documented on this matter!

This is an issue that is apparent to most people except those who are expected to tackle and make a difference on such a serious social problem of this nature.

With over 70% of Crime or more related to Drugs and Alcohol, one wonders how bad things have to get before an ‘Intelligently Led and Coordinated Effort’ is made to do something positive about this worrying situation, because at the moment there doesn’t appear to be ‘Clue on the Way Forward or even Sideward’s Only Backwards!!!