PATIENTS who assault and abuse staff at Southampton's biggest hospital could be refused treatment and face prosecution.

University Hospital Southampton has launched a crackdown on those who assault their staff, warning that those who think abusive is acceptable could be refused treatment.

To mark Hate Crime Awareness Week, the Trust has partnered with Hampshire Constabulary under a scheme called Operation Cavell, designed to increase convictions and protect NHS staff on the frontline.

The initiative will see police officers collaborate with welfare and support staff within the NHS to help those who have been a victim of such crimes.

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Since 2016 there have been 1,660 reports by staff who have suffered abuse or assault while at work.

This year has seen the highest number of incidents reported in that five-year period, in just nine months.

Among the cases was an emergency department nurse who was violently assaulted by a male patient who hurled a chair at her back, knocking her to the ground. She had to crawl to safety on her hands and knees.

The 34-year-old, who has not been names to protect her identity, said: “I remember crawling out of the bay because I was so scared to stand up. I was shaking uncontrollably; it was so traumatic."

Daily Echo: University Hospital Southampton.

Security were called and restrained the man while the remaining patients were ushered to safety.

She suffered major bruising across her neck, back and shoulder. She was sent home from work.

The man who assaulted her appeared in court charged with criminal damage and assaulting an emergency worker. He was given an eight-week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months and ordered to pay £750 compensation.

The nurse, who has now changed roles, said: “Nobody wants to end up in the emergency department and I understand that people are stressed or sometimes frustrated when we are busy and they have to wait – but we are always trying to do our best."

Now, UHS is furthering its approach and security officers are now based within the Emergency Department, where many of the incidents have occurred, to protect staff and patients 24 hours a day.

They have the power to remove a patient, regardless of whether they are waiting for treatment, if their behaviour is unacceptable.

UHS has also launched a new dedicated online hub for staff to report incidents, receive help and support and a commitment to pursue those responsible through the criminal courts.

Daily Echo: Steve Harris, chief people officer at University Hospital Southampton

Steve Harris, chief people officer at University Hospital Southampton, said abuse in any form against staff would not be tolerated.

He said: “There is no excuse for any form of abuse or discrimination against a member of our workforce and these robust new measures are about reinforcing that.

“Our staff must be able to come to work feeling safe and protected – without fear of violence, injury or abuse - so they can provide the very best care for those in our community who need it most.

"Unfortunately, for far too long, some staff have accepted abuse or assault as part and parcel of the job and many cases go unreported.

"This has to end."