NHS forced to spend huge sums on police to protect emergency staff

HOSPITALS are paying tens of thousands of pounds for police officers to cover A&E departments on Friday and Saturday nights to protect doctors, nurses and other staff from violence.

A total of 60,000 a year pays for four officers to cover A&E at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the Western Infirmary in Glasgow on a Friday and Saturday nights.

The Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral paid 29,000 last year for a police officer on both nights and in Newcastle health chiefs fork out 25,000 a year for an officer on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: "Having a police presence in two of our accident and emergency departments was the result of a significant rise in the number of staff reporting physical or verbal abuse."

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The Royal Liverpool Hospital said it paid 23,000 a year on Friday and Saturday nights.

"The additional police support has been in place since the late 1990s/2000 and is the result of close partnership working between the trust and Merseyside Police to proactively prevent violence and aggression towards staff," a spokeswoman added.

Other trusts said they paid for police during the week.

Peter Harrowing, from the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, said the trust employed two police liaison officers overnight on each weekday night in a deal in which the NHS contributes 50,000 in part payment in an arrangement since 2003 with police.

Hospitals in Leeds have the largest security network in the NHS. Its 3.5m state-of-the-art system controls 700 cameras while five community support officers work alongside security staff at St James's Hospital and Leeds General Infirmary.

A dedicated police room jointly funded with the NHS has opened in A&E at Bradford Royal Infirmary. It includes a two-way mirror enabling officers to keep an eye on the casualty unit.

A spokeswoman for health service union Unison said: "We have spoken to staff working in A&E departments and some of them say it's like a war zone on Friday and Saturday night.

"There's no doubt the 24-hour drinking culture has meant that people are attending A&E drunk, particularly at the weekend. It's very frightening for staff working there and other patients."