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'Very violent' Healthcare workers threatened with knives and gun as almost 8,700 assaulted in Ireland last year

Knives have been used in some cases, I think even a gun was pulled at one stage in an area where nurses and other care staff were"

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Nurses and other healthcare workers in Ireland have encountered knives and even a gun that had been pulled at one stage, it has been revealed. 

Aggression and violence against nurses was described as a “national and international problem” after new figures show how there were nearly 8,700 reports of assaults on health staff in Ireland last year.

According to Freedom of Information figures, there were 8,667 reports of assaults on HSE staff in 2020 and the 4,166 against nurses make up by far the highest amount, at over 48 per cent.

Some 6,900 involved direct physical attacks, while 1,707 were verbal and 60 were sexual assaults.

Speaking about the figures that were obtained by Newstalk, Deputy General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) David Hughes said it is an ongoing and serious problem.

“We are very concerned but it is not a new concern because unfortunately aggression and violence against nurses is a national and international problem in recent years in the health service,” he said.

“What is most surprising about these figures each year as they come on is that the general nurse tends to be more in line for these type of assaults.”

He added that some of the assaults have been so serious, that there are nurses who lose time “because of assaults who have to go and get their injuries looked after”.

“Knives have been used in some cases, I think even a gun was pulled at one stage in an area where nurses and other care staff were.

“So, they can be very violent. A lot of it is physical but the verbal abuse is quite high as well.”

The largest amount of assaults was in the Donegal/Sligo/Leitrim/Cavan/Monaghan area, with 1,028 reports last year.

The HSE says ensuring the safety of employees and service-users is a priority and training on managing violence and aggression is provided.

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