An “epidemic of violence against health care workers plagues hospitals” as “hospital administrations and the judicial system do little to prevent assaults against nurses and other caregivers by patients,” reported Scientific American. Conversely, the same day, The Guardian reported “a hidden outbreak,” as sexual violence by UK hospital staff against psychiatric patients “soars.”
“In a 2014 survey, almost 80 percent of nurses reported being attacked on the job within the past year,” reported Scientific American. “Health-care workers experience the most nonfatal workplace violence compared to other professions by a wide margin, with attacks on them accounting for almost 70 percent of all nonfatal workplace assaults causing days away from work in the U.S., according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
The article linked the assaults to “people experiencing psychosis or other mental crises” and people with dementia. However, Scientific American commented that much of the violence was “less explainable”; for example, one survey showed “almost 50 percent came from patients and family members who were drunk or on drugs.”
The Guardian, meanwhile, obtained records through the Freedom of Information Act that “show a 50% rise in reports of sexual violence [against patients] in hospitals since 2011. It includes a total of at least 157 rape allegations.” The information obtained also showed another 1,615 violent sexual attacks against patients. “But prosecutors have said that up to 90% of sexual abuse goes unreported, suggesting the true figure could be much higher,” reported The Guardian.
“Most police forces were unable to provide a firm breakdown of the types of hospitals where rapes and sexual abuse had been reported,” stated The Guardian. “However, the Met, which accounted for 20% of all reports, said the issue was a particular problem in mental health units, with a significant proportion of alleged victims identified as vulnerable due to mental health problems.”
All of the cases described by The Guardian involved hospital staff attacking psychiatric patients.
“In another case, a mental health patient described psychiatric hospitals as a ‘playground for predators’, after she was raped up to 60 times by a member of staff,” reported The Guardian. “The woman had been taken to Little Brook hospital in Kent after a breakdown and was warned she would be sectioned if she tried to leave. She described her ordeal to the BBC earlier this year. ‘At times I was on a very heavy amount of Valium, not to where I was unconscious, but the sedative combined with my already defeated self, I was like putty. He would pull the covers back, do what he had to do and leave, all very quickly. I didn’t move.'”
Epidemic of Violence against Health Care Workers Plagues Hospitals (Scientific American, December 31, 2014)
Sexual violence soars in UK hospitals (The Guardian, December 31, 2014)