More than 34,000 assaults on nurses and doctors since 2015

Nurses disproportionately affected, HSE figures show

In 2021 to date, there have been 3,315 assaults on nurses and doctors. Photograph:  Niall Carson/ PA Wire

In 2021 to date, there have been 3,315 assaults on nurses and doctors. Photograph: Niall Carson/ PA Wire


There have been more than 34,000 reported assaults on nurses and doctors over the past seven years, according to figures provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Since 2015 a total of 33,341 assaults on nurses and 733 assaults on doctors have been recorded, according to the figures provided by the executive to Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond. He called for an urgent audit of hospital security.

The highest number of assaults in one year was recorded in 2019, when there were 5,476, of which 5,358 were on nursing staff.

The figures dropped slightly in 2020 to 4,626 assaults, a decrease which can largely be attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic as there were fewer attendances and admissions to hospital during this time.

In 2021 to date, there have been 3,315 assaults on nurses and doctors.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives’ Organisation has campaigned on this issue, previously stating that understaffing, overcrowding and undercapacity, can create a “pressure cooker environment” in Irish hospitals.

The union said the reported figures were just the “tip of the iceberg”, with many more going unreported as nurses “are often too busy to stop work and do the paperwork”.

Mr Richmond said the “shocking” figures showed the “magnitude of the problem faced by our healthcare workers”.

“No HSE worker, be they a nurse, a porter, a doctor or an administrator, should be assaulted in the workplace.Threat, danger and intimidation of those who keep us safe and healthy is unacceptable beyond words,” he said.

“Fear of assault should never be a barrier to those considering a career in healthcare, but looking at these figures is it any wonder we have young Irish nurses and doctors moving abroad?”

Anti-vaxx campaigners

Mr Richmond said there had been an “increasingly concerning” new trend emerging in recent times.

“Many of us have watched the viral videos of anti-vaxx campaigners disrupting the work of our health staff and putting lives at risk,” he said.

“Our nurses and doctors are working night and day in the fight against Covid-19. We cannot allow this abuse to continue.”

In response to questions about what the HSE is doing to ensure the safety of staff, a spokeswoman for the health service said it was “committed” to creating a safe environment within which to work or be treated.

“The HSE does not tolerate verbal or physical harassment in any form by employees, service users, members of the public or others,” the spokeswoman said.

In 2018, the HSE implemented a policy on the prevention of work-related aggression and violence, to “bring about a reduction in any foreseeable risks”.

“Key measures to ensure safety include on site security, training, risk assessments and the full implementation of the aforementioned policy,” the spokeswoman added.

Number of assaults on nurses and doctors reported by year

2015: Medical staff: 108; Nursing staff: 5,049
2016: Medical staff: 88; Nursing staff: 5,026
2017: Medical staff: 86; Nursing staff: 4,986
2018: Medical staff: 129; Nursing staff: 5,185
2019: Medical staff: 118; Nursing staff: 5,358
2020: Medical staff: 125; Nursing staff: 4,501
2021: Medical staff: 79; Nursing staff: 3,236
Total: Medical staff: 733; Nursing staff: 33,341