VIOLENCE and aggression against staff at the three main hospitals serving Wiltshire has more than doubled in three years, according to a Freedom of Information request.

More than 840 incidents were recorded against staff in the last financial year (2013/2014), compared to less than 400 (393) in 2010/11, the Standard can reveal.

There were almost 300 (276) attacks on staff at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital, nearly 350 (347) at Salisbury Hospital and 221 at Bath’s Royal United Hospital.

Almost 560 (558) of the perpetrators were patients, while 73 were staff and 34 were visitors.

The number of incidents recorded against patients also shot up from 38 to 94 over the same time period.

Police were called to 82 incidents in Wiltshire over the last financial year, compared to just 18, three years ago.

The trusts say this is because staff are encouraged to report any incident, regardless of how minor, combined with improved systems for capturing data.

The RUH also point out they experienced a period of ‘historic reporting’ , where previous, unrecorded incidents were entered into the system, skewing the relationship between the number of incidents recorded and those that actually happened that year.

In a statement, the RUH say they have a security strategy in place, comprising controlled access areas, CCTV, panic alarms, safety training for staff, increased security presence at the emergency department, good evidence capture and a sound relationship with the local police.

The GWH launched their ‘Respect Us’ campaign in August to raise awareness that any form of verbal or physical abuse is unacceptable. The campaign also encourages more staff to report verbal or physical abuse, including rude, intimidating or antisocial behaviour.

In a statement, the GWH told the Standard: “If the member of staff has consented, we will not hesitate to seek prosecution through the police or NHS Protect Legal Protection Unit.”

But the vast majority of incidents reported are situations where patients are not responsible for their actions at the time. Some of the assaults were medically related, such as a patient or member of the public who may have learning disabilities, dementia or be confused after an operation, due to their medication.

At Salisbury hospital, this represented 97.4% of all incidents in their latest published reports. There were only two assaults that did not involve medical factors.

A spokesman from Salisbury said: “The trust has in place training for frontline staff in how to deal with difficult situations. The trust also has a policy in place which covers the management of risk, training and reporting procedures that inform and influences regular monitoring and review.”

Not one patient was refused treatment at either the GWH or the RUH over the last year - although two received warnings at the RUH.

The RUH said: “We only refuse treatment as a last resort.”

There were two prosecutions against members of staff at the GWH relating to aggression or intimidation, three at Salisbury and five at the RUH, during the last financial year.