Thousands of patients attending HSE facilities are being subjected to violence, harassment and aggression by other patients, new official figures reveal.
The HSE said that in 2016 out of a total of 10,325 incidents of violence, harassment or aggressive behaviour reported, 9,536 were perpetrated by service users on other service users.
The HSE also said that in the nine months to last September, 5,459 of the total number of such incidents reported were carried out by patients on other patients.
The HSE said it collected data in relation to physical assaults, intimidation, threats, unintentional aggressive behaviour, physical harassment, verbal assaults/harassment and sexual assaults as part of a reporting system for violence, harassment and aggression in its facilities.
The health authority told Fianna Fáil TD James Browne in an answer to a written parliamentary question that it expected to see the number of incidents recorded to increase in the years ahead as a reporting culture improved.
Mr Browne said it was clearly “a source of great concern that so many patient-on-patient attacks should be occurring, and as the figures don’t include the voluntary hospitals we are not getting the full picture.
“The HSE should ensure that any hospitals in receipt of public funding are providing these figures. It’s critical that we get the full detail, and put in place a plan to deal with it. We do have to keep in mind that often the patients mean no harm and are not in control of their own actions when these attacks are carried out.
“We should also recognise the challenging environment that frontline staff members work in. I know that the number of mental health staff who have been attacked has soared in recent years, and that needs to be investigated and addressed.”
In its answer to the parliamentary question, the HSE said “the health service, and in particular mental health services, are placing a strong emphasis on training and equipping the workforce effectively with skills on risk-identification and management of violence and aggression”.
“Training in relation to professional management of violence and aggression is offered in all services.
“The mental health service is also beginning to see reports of near-miss and no-harm incidents, which is positive. The value in the near-miss/no-harm national incident management system [NIMS] data helps to reflect on the services’ ability to recognise and identify risk associated with self-injuries behaviour/ violence, harassment or aggression, and to ensure that the data from the NIMS and the risk registers is bi-directional, with one informing the other.”
The HSE said that since 2015, in conjunction with the State Claims Agency, it had been rolling out the new NIMS across the health service. It said the system was for the first time providing a "comprehensive view of safety incidents reported across the health system".