MORE than 1,300 incidents of abuse against staff were recorded by Southampton's biggest hospital, the Daily Echo can reveal.

University Hospital Southampton has recorded a total of 1,304 incidents of abuse and assault towards staff by patients in the last four years sparking calls for more police back-up in A&E.

An FOI submitted by the Daily Echo asked for the number of incidents of abuse or assault on staff, which revealed that 115 of the incidents resulted in police being called to assist.

The most assaults were recorded between 2016 to 2017 where staff reported 359 incidents in one year.

Incidents dropped between 2017 to 2018 with 311 reported incidents, followed by 290 incidents the following year between 2018 and 2019.

However assaults shot up again on 2019 to 2020 with a total of 344 incidents reported by staff.

The figures have been met with anger from both Southampton MPs and the Royal College of Nursing (RNC), who claim that the real figure including those not reported will be "much higher".

Theresa Curry, RCN Senior Officer South Hampshire: “No one goes to work expecting to be abused. It is never acceptable and these figures are really sad to see – although these are just the reported figures, the real figures are probably even higher. This isn’t a Southampton problem, this is an issue across the country.

“We know that as a patient or family/friend of a patient it can be really scary to go to hospital. It’s a time of heightened emotions for everyone but lashing out at staff will not solve anything. Shouting at a nurse will not get you seen any quicker. All of the staff in a hospital are there to help. From the receptionists to doctors, nurses, porters – everyone is doing their bit to help the people in their care."

The figures have also sparked calls for a bigger police presence at the hospital.

MP for Southampton Test Alan Whitehead said that the numbers were "very worrying" and that they "have been too high for a while".

He added: "I've been working with the hospital and together we have been pushing the Police and Crime Commissioner for an increased police presence stationed at the hospital and in particular A&E where many of these assaults take place."

Royston Smith, MP for Southampton Itchen, said that the abuse staff face is "appalling".

"Any form of abuse or violence towards healthcare staff is completely unacceptable," he said.

"No one should have to face abuse or threats whilst doing their job, let alone the people who work tirelessly to keep us safe.”

The hospital have said that they have a "zero tolerance" approach to any form of abuse, adding that they have since launched a campaign to tackle the issue.

David French, interim CEO of University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust: “As our staff at the frontline deliver care through the most challenging phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, their protection and welfare must be our priority.

“Behind every one of those incidents is a staff member who has experienced some form of abuse when they are carrying out their duty to care for others – and that can’t continue.

“University Hospital Southampton has a zero tolerance approach to any form of abuse or discrimination against a member of our staff and whilst we have already adopted a number of initiatives to reinforce that robust stance, we know we must do more.

“Along with our ‘No excuse for abuse’ campaign, we have established a staff group to lead and drive initiatives to protect staff and raise awareness that this behaviour will not be tolerated at UHS. Staff can expect the full support of the organisation in pursuing convictions, and support to deal with the personal impact of these incidents.

“To that end, we have begun working in partnership with Hampshire Constabulary through Operation Cavell, a campaign to strengthen the response when assaults occur.

“UHS is clear that our staff being abused or assaulted is not an occupational hazard, it is a criminal offence. Our staff must be able to come to work feeling safe and protected so they can provide the very best care for those in our community who need it most.”