CICA and the way it can impact you – Part 2: Medical staff
ARTICLE BY: Daryl Smith
There has been a surge in the abuse suffered by NHS Staff. The latest NHS Staff survey carried out showed that 30% of workers at North Tees and Hartlepool Trust, which runs the University Hospital of Hartlepool and the University Hospital of North Tees, said they had been mistreated by patients, relatives or members of the public in 2017. One in seven people undertaking the survey suggested that they had also been physically abused.[i] This worrying figure correlates with the nationwide survey that found 15% of NHS Staff had experienced physical violence from patients, relatives or members of public.[ii]
The most terrifying part of these statistics is that the victims suffering this abuse have chosen to take up a career in which they aim to make people better. In return for helping to heal ailments suffered by people like you or me, they are being punished. Whilst completely unacceptable, people are now becoming accustomed to hearing stories of attacks on medical staff.
These attacks can be completely out of the blue. On 18th June 2018, a female GP was repeatedly punched in the face by the son of one of her former patients. Steven Cook, 41, blamed Dr Victoria Hunter for allegedly failing to diagnose his father’s Motor Neurone Disease before he died as a result. Dr Hunter was left with a suspected fracture to her jaw, a displaced front tooth and swelling to her face.[iii]
On another occasion, Dr Rakesh Sharma was assaulted after George Preshur barged into Oswald Medical Centre in Blackburn claiming he had upset his mother. Dr Sharma felt immediate pain following this attack and had to go to hospital for treatment.[iv]
These ‘minor’ physical assaults are bad enough, but the unfortunate truth is that they are not limited to common assault. Two recent stories had potentially fatal consequences. When Dr Gary Griffith went to work on 10th July 2018, he did not have the faintest clue that there would be an attempt on his life. Mark Waterfall, who was found guilty of attempted murder on 8th January 2019, entered Suthergrey House Medical Centre, concealing a crossbow in two plastic bags and waited patiently until Dr Griffith was alone. When he perceived that he had found the perfect opportunity, Waterfall stood up, walked towards Dr Griffith, exclaimed “You killed my father and I am going to kill you” and fired a bolt from around five feet away. The bolt lodged into the left side of the doctor’s stomach.
Astonishingly, the doctor survived due to him untucking his shirt previously in the day – the layers of cotton had helped prevent the bolt from travelling further. Dr Griffith then proceed to pull the arrow out of his stomach and inspect his wound. He told the jury in the case, “Although the wound was gaping, it hadn’t gone into my colon. I had to pull the wound apart to check if it had gone into the bowel. I was still sitting down, and I removed the bolt and put it on my desk. I pulled the wound apart to see how far it had gone in.”[v]
Ashworth Hospital in Merseyside has been at the centre of numerous high-profile incidents in the past couple of years. Most recently a patient attacked seven nurses leaving them badly injured. He spat into one nursing assistant’s mouth, head-butted and bit others, even going as far as wiping an infected wound in the face and mouth of another.[vi]
The awareness of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is low, and claims from medical staff are in the minority, but the purpose of the CICA is to compensate blameless victims of violent crimes. Whilst not explicitly stated in the public domain as to whether any form of disease was submitted when the patient wiped his infected wound in the mouth and face of the nurse or when he spat at another, the CICA scheme makes provision for the potential transmission of disease. A victim is entitled to a set additional payment of £22,000 on top of any other injuries if HIV, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C are contracted.
Before this, in December 2017, again at Ashworth Hospital, a paranoid schizophrenic patient hurled a cup of boiling hot water in to the face of 56-year old nurse Henry McCormick. He then inflicted a brutal beating, causing a broken eye-socket, broken nose, a gash to the forehead and severe burns on the nurse’s neck, shoulder and arm. Following the incident, Mr McCormick continued to suffer from a stammer, flashbacks and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.[vii]
The physical injuries suffered by doctors and nurses are simply deplorable. However, the psychological impact incidents such as the aforementioned ones above can have is completely understated. After the serious assault suffered by Mr McCormick, he was left requiring counselling, his confidence was shot, and he felt unable to return to work at Ashworth. In a case such as this, a victim suffering severe burns to the neck could be looking at a disbursement of up to £16,500 with potential additional payments for burns elsewhere on the body, fractured bones and psychological injuries on top of this.
In an ideal world these types of incidents would not happen, but unfortunately, we are unlikely to see a dramatic decrease in attacks on medical staff any time soon. While they continue to happen, it is important that the CICA is effectively utilised to indemnify these innocent victims sustaining injuries while simply attempting to remedy other people’s.
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