The purpose of this policy is to address instances of unacceptable behaviour which may cause harm or the fear of harm to any person within the Practice. The scope of this policy is therefore:
Instances of violence or aggression committed by any person, whether patient, visitor or any other person working within the practice against any patient, visitor, or other person working within the practice.
Violence and aggression are defined as:
- Violence is the use of force against a person and has the same definition as “assault” in law (i.e. an attempt, offer or application of force against the person). This would cover any person unlawfully touching any other person forcefully, spitting at another person, raising fists or feet or verbally threatening to strike or otherwise apply force to any person.
- Aggression is regarded as threatening or abusive language or gestures, sexual gestures or behaviour, derogatory sexual or racial remarks, shouting at any person or applying force to any practice property or the personal property of any person on the practice. This would cover people banging on desks or counters or shouting loudly in an intimidating manner.
This policy applies throughout the premises, including any car park and grounds. It also applies to any employee or partner away from the practice but only in so far as it relates to the business of the practice.
- Employees have the responsibility to ensure their own safety and that of their colleagues at work. It is essential, therefore, that all employees are familiar with practice policies and procedures, equipment and precautions adopted to combat the risk of physical and verbal abuse.
- Familiarise themselves with practices policies and procedures, guidelines, and instructions.
- Use any equipment or devices provided for ‘at risk’ situations i.e. alarms.
- Participate in relevant training made available by the practice.
- Report all incidents of physical and verbal abuse (threatened or actual).
- Record details of incidents in compliance with practice procedures.
- Contribute towards reviews by nominated managers concerning any incidents in which they have been involved.
- Suggest precautionary measures involving changes in the layout of the work environment that can reduce risk.
- Make use of any available staff support and counselling through the practice.
- Advise the practice manager/line manager of any perceived risks involved in work activities.
- Carry out risk assessments to assess and review the duties of employees, identifying any ‘at risk’ situations and taking appropriate steps to reduce or remove the risk to employees.
- Assess and review the layout of premises to reduce the risk to employees.
- Assess and review the provision of personal safety equipment i.e. alarms.
- Develop practice policies, procedures, and guidelines for dealing with physical and verbal abuse.
- Provide support and counselling for victims or refer to suitably qualified health professionals.
- Make employees aware of risks and ensure employee involvement in suitable training courses.
- Record any incidents and take any remedial action to ensure similar incidents are prevented.
- Ensure that employees’ personal data, including information about their health, collected when preventing and dealing with violence at work (for example during risk assessments and incident investigations) is handled in accordance with the practice’s Data Protection Policy.
What to Do
If violence and aggression is encountered:
- In the first instance a member of the staff should ask the perpetrator to stop behaving in an unacceptable way. Sometimes a calm and quiet approach will be all that is required. Staff should not in any circumstances respond in a like manner.
- Should the person not stop their behaviour the [insert responsible person] should be asked to attend and the member of staff should explain calmly what has taken place, preferably within hearing of the perpetrator.
- If the person is acting in an unlawful manner, causes damage or actually strikes another then the police should be called immediately.
- Should it prove necessary to remove the person from the practice then the police should be called, and staff should not, except in the most extreme occasions, attempt to manhandle the person from the premises.
- If such a course of action proves necessary then those members of staff involved must complete a written note of the incident, detailing in chronological order what has taken place and the exact words used prior to leaving the building at the end of their working day.
- It is the policy to press for charges against any person who damages or steals practice property or assaults any member of staff or visitor/patient.
Procedure Following an Accident
- Review the incident with the practice partners immediately in order to determine severity
- Determine if the patient should be removed from the practice list forthwith
- Decide if a written warning should be given
- Decide whether to take further action if the matter has been sufficiently dealt with by the advice already given.
Any employee or patient/visitor who receives any injury, no matter how small, should be the subject of an entry in the practice Accident Book and should always be strongly advised to be examined by a doctor before they leave the premises.
Every violent incident involving staff will be reasonably supported by the provision of medical or other treatment as necessary and all incidents should be brought to the attention of the [insert responsible person], if not already involved. If an injury has occurred, this may be notifiable to the HSE.
The practice re-affirms its commitment to do everything possible to protect staff, patients and visitors from unacceptable behaviour and their zero tolerance of any incident that causes hurt, alarm damage or distress.
Marking Patients’ Records
In the event of an act of violence or aggression taking place, it is possible to mark the patient’s record to warn other staff of the potential threat of violence.
If paper records are used, this may involve placing physical markers inside the record in a discrete manner, for example using a coloured sticker or symbol to indicate physical assault and a different colour or symbol to indicate non-physical assault.
Where an electronic records system is used, a marker can be used to alert staff when they securely access the patient’s record. If both paper records and electronic records systems are used, tagging of paper-based records should be used in addition to the electronic marker to ensure consistency.
When visible markers are used to mark paper records, their meaning should be clear, unambiguous and well-known to staff, while also being discreet and not recognisable to patients themselves.
Support for Employees Subjected to Abuse
The practice takes a serious view of any incidents of physical and verbal abuse against its employees and will support them if assaulted, threatened or harassed.
The first concern of managers after an incident is to provide appropriate debriefing and counselling for affected employees. Depending on the severity of the incident this counselling may be undertaken by trained professionals.
The practice manager/line manager will assist victims of violence with the completion of the formal record of the incident and where appropriate will report the incident to the police.
In the event of serious physical and verbal abuse, patients will be removed from the practice list.
This is a summary of the guidance aimed at protecting employees and people in their care describing the lawful use of restraint or force (it does not give a precise statement of law and is not an exhaustive list of legal requirement and provisions):
- Common Law: created and defined by decisions made in courts and other legal proceedings rather than legislative statutes. It recognises the entitlement to defend oneself or another person from harm if they believe they are in immediate danger, and that necessary and proportional action may include restraint or removal of a person to prevent harm.
- Criminal Law Act 1967: Section 3 allows the use of reasonable force to prevent crimes, that force being necessary and ‘proportionate’ (i.e. the degree of force is the minimum required to achieve the objective).
- Equality Act 2010: those delivering NHS services must comply with the Equality Act 2010 and not discriminate against individuals in relation to protected characteristics
- Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008: Section 76 defines the degree of force used to restrain was reasonable in the circumstances
- Health and Safety at Work Act 1974: The employers are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of all employees, users and visitors. They must ensure a safe and secure working environment protecting staff from acts of aggression (physical and verbal).
- Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014: all Practice employees must adhere to the fundamental care standards as set out in the regulations.
- Human Rights Act: apply to any person receiving care and treatment as well as the person’s family and carers, other people receiving treatment and the staff involved in the person’s care and treatment.
- Mental Capacity Act and Deprivation of Liberty: where possible the patient’s capacity should be assessed before any physical intervention.
- Mental Health Act: This Act gives provision for the legal use of restrictive physical interventions to enforce treatment in certain circumstances.
Best Practice Guidance
Department of Health and NICE have best practice guidance available for healthcare settings;
- Positive and Proactive Care : reducing the need for restrictive interventions (2014)
- Mental Health Act Code of Practice
- NICE Clinical Guidance NG10 – Violence and Aggression (2015)
- NICE NG11 (2015) Challenging Behaviour and Learning Disabilities : Prevention and Interventions for People with Learning Disabilities Whose Behaviour Challenges