Wigan hospital bosses condemn violent attacks on staff

Wigan Infirmary
Wigan Infirmary

Hospital bosses have condemned violent attacks on their staff, after a woman was sentenced for assaulting a worker when she was thrown out of the A&E department.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust said the security guard was “simply doing her job” when she was assaulted by Victoria Gradwell at Wigan Infirmary.

Gradwell, 31, of Upper Dicconson Street, Swinley, appeared at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court for sentencing following the incident, having earlier pleaded guilty to assaulting an emergency worker by beating and criminal damage worth £200 to her glasses.

The court heard she went to the A&E unit on Tuesday, February 26 after her boyfriend was assaulted at a party.

Paul Sumner, prosecuting, said Gradwell and two other people were ejected from the waiting room by staff at 1am for causing a nuisance.

But once outside the entrance to A&E, she grabbed hospital security guard Sally McKenzie’s face.

Mr Sumner said: “Whilst doing this, she pulled the glasses off her face, causing them to be damaged when they hit the floor. She was detained and arrested by the police.”

Peter Moran, defending, said the issues in A&E were caused by people she was with, rather than Gradwell herself, but she was asked to leave by security and then a police officer as she was with the group.

He said: “She was effectively on the car park when she was followed by security.

“Yes, it’s conceded they have a job to do and they are physically capable of doing that job. She retaliated to comments made by security staff and pushed the lady in the face, causing no injury.”

Mr Moran said Gradwell led a “chaotic lifestyle”, largely due to drug misuse.

Magistrates imposed a 12-month community order, with 30 rehabilitation activity days and a nine-month drug rehabilitation requirement. She was ordered to pay £250 compensation.

The offence of assaulting an emergency worker was introduced late last year and saw the maximum sentence available doubled from six to 12 months in prison.

This covers police, prison officers, custody officers, fire service personnel, search and rescue services and paramedics.

It follows a rise in the number of deliberate on emergency workers across the country.

There were 288 assaults on WWL employees in 2016-17, according to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

After the sentencing, Jason Carr, the trust’s head of security and car parking, said: “We wholly condemns the assault on one of our security staff.

“Ms Gradwell was escorted out of the A&E department by a member of trust staff who was simply doing her job, and, unfortunately, as is quite often the case, bore the full brunt of the aggression.

“Security staff at our hospitals deal with a wide range of patients who are often high on drugs or alcohol which tends to spike over the course of Thursday to Saturday evenings.

“Those patients who become aggressive under the influence of alcohol or drugs will not be tolerated and all assaults of this nature, either verbal or physical on clinical or non-clinical staff, is totally unacceptable and WWL will seek to prosecute where appropriate.

“However, many of the assaults on staff that take place at WWL are as a direct result of staff caring for elderly confused patients or those with mental health problems.

“With this in mind, many actual assaults are not reported to the police or result in an arrest as this would often be wholly inappropriate.

“The trust has a policy entitled Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults which guides staff in dealing with this group of patients. Additionally, all staff receive mandatory training in relation to safeguarding and conflict resolution.

“To ensure the safety of our patients, key staff members are given control and restraint training to minimise the risk to others if an individual becomes aggressive.

“While we cannot quantify the impact these assaults have on our staff, we do have full supportive measures in place and offer counselling and complimentary resilience courses.”