The message from South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and Northumbria Police is being reinforced after a recent increase in incidents of violence and aggression against staff at the Trust.
Staff across the Trust continue to work under intensely difficult circumstances as services continue to see high demand across the festive break.
The Trust wants to send a clear message to the public and reinforce that any form of abuse, whether verbal or physical, will not be tolerated and will result in swift and severe action, including contacting the police and possible refusal of treatment.
Dr Shaz Wahid, Medical Director at the Trust, said:
“NHS staff are working above and beyond to care for the increasing numbers of patients accessing services at the moment. They are working under challenging circumstances and absolutely do not deserve to be treated with anything other than respect.
“Our teams dedicate themselves to caring for and protecting others and they need to be able to come to work without fear of violence, abuse or harassment. Unfortunately, a minority of people do sometimes act in a violent and abusive manner towards them and this is simply not acceptable.
“We want to make it absolutely clear that we will not tolerate physical, verbal or racist abuse. We encourage reporting of all forms of violence and aggression and, whenever possible, we always seek to ensure that those responsible are prosecuted.”
The message comes on the back of a recent plea from the region’s NHS for people to only use A&E or 999 if their condition is life threatening and to think of alternative services such as local pharmacies, GPs, NHS111 online.
Dr Wahid added:
“We know that services are busy at the moment and it can be frustrating for people. Please remember that our teams are doing the very best they can to help, but must prioritise caring for those who need it most.
“Being rude or aggressive to staff will not get you seen any quicker. It could result in you not being seen at all.
“The best thing is to make sure you are accessing the right service for your needs. This could be a local pharmacy for minor illnesses or you can check your symptoms at www.111.nhs.uk. This will give you advice and direct you to the service that’s right for you.”
Chief Inspector Neil Hall, from Northumbria Police, said: “It is completely unacceptable for emergency service workers to be assaulted, threatened or abused in any way as they go about their duties.
“Hospital staff come to work each day to help and care for people and should be able to do so free from abuse.
“We are committed to taking action against anyone who carries out such appalling behaviour.”