A Scottish health board has been fined £32,000 after being found guilty of failing to ensure the safety of a worker who was physically attacked by a patient with mental health issues.
The experienced community psychiatric nurse was visiting a 58-year-old female patient who had a 30-year history of mental health issues at the time the attack occurred.
The nurse was forced to the floor, threatened and her hair was pulled so hard that clumps were ripped out. The attack has had a lasting effect on the victim, who is anxious about making home visits and has suffered 'flashbacks' of the attack ever since.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the attack found that, at the time of the attack, Lothian Health Board had undertaken no risk assessments in respect of Community Health teams dealing with aggression or violence, or for lone workers making home visits.
In addition, the board had failed to provide a safe working environment for making home visits and had failed to provide sufficient information, instruction, training and supervision for these types of work.
The Board admitted one breach of s.2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Further, the Board admitted breaching s.3 of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 as the attack, which occurred on 25 March 2009, was not reported until November 2009. The law requires that serious occurrences be reported within 10 days of occurrence.
Following the case, HSE Inspector Lindsey Stein said: "Lothian Health Board failed to appropriately manage the risks associated with nurses making lone home visits to clients with histories of violence towards staff.
"This employee was not properly supported or trained to deal with a patient she was visiting who was known to have been violent towards staff in the past as a result of her long standing mental health issues.
"The board's failure to protect its employee was added to by its failure to report the incident for eight months."
This incident comes as a timely reminder to businesses of their legal obligation to ensure that they have adequate training, information and instruction available for employees.
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