NHS workers in Bradford have been subjected to a vile tide of abuse and aggression during the pandemic, figures show.

As hospital workers put their own lives on the line to treat patients while the pressures wrought by Covid-19 took hold, data released through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust shows they were victims of both physical and verbal attacks. 

It stands in stark contrast to the outpouring of support which was shown through the weekly ‘Clap for Carers’ and rainbow-adorned windows as people thanked the NHS for its efforts.

Figures show that in 2016 there was a total of 274 incidents (129 physical and 145 verbal), while 2017 saw 230 incidents (100 physical and 130 verbal).
This rose in 2018 to 262 (99 physical and 163 verbal) and rose again in 2019 to 282, with 143 physical assaults and 139 incidents of verbal abuse. 

The year of the pandemic, 2020, saw 315 attacks. While verbal abuse fell to 130 incidents, there was a surge to 185 physical assaults on NHS staff at the Trust.

As of the end of June this year, 76 physical assaults and 66 verbal abuse incidents had been recorded.  

Last month, Bridget Mtola was jailed for 22 months and handed a five-year Criminal Behaviour Order for a “disgraceful and shameful” catalogue of offences.

Bradford Crown Court heard Mtola, 30, of Cliffe Terrace, Shipley, had punched two nurses to the back of the head, punched a doctor in the face and kicked a paramedic in the stomach. 

The court was told she had been banned from Bradford Royal Infirmary.

In another case, a man was jailed after he pointed an imitation gun in the face of a porter at the hospital.

Adil Akksar, 27, of Cleveland Road, Manningham, demanded: “Give me a f***ing X-ray now,” after turning up at the hospital on October 17 last year.

The porter thought he was going to be shot dead and other staff were left petrified.

Bradford Teaching Hospitals said the majority of patients are respectful and appreciative, but said: “There has been a rise in abusive behaviour during the pandemic.”

A spokesperson told the Telegraph & Argus: “We fully appreciate that people are concerned and sometimes upset about visiting restrictions due to Covid, and get frustrated by longer waiting times in A&E caused by us dealing with increasing numbers of patients, but we urge people to let our staff do their job.

“Our staff are trying their best to look after people under difficult circumstances, so we ask everyone to please treat them with the respect they deserve.

“We want patients and the public to understand that we have a zero tolerance approach to violence and aggression and while our security staff deal with the majority of incidents, we will involve the police when necessary.”

The issue is not confined to hospital environments, with GPs also receiving abuse from patients as frustration grows over access to face-to-face appointments. 

Members of Bradford Council’s Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee were given an update on GP services at a meeting last Thursday.

A report to the committee said: “Practices are reporting to the Clinical Commissioning Group high levels of incidents of abuse and violent/threatening behaviour from patients, which is having an impact on already stretched and tired workforce.”

Chair Councillor Vanda Greenwood (Lab, Windhill and Wrose) said: “Sorry to the GPs getting abuse. We need to make it clear to people you’re being told what to do, it is not necessarily your choice.

Parveen Akhtar Associate Director Keeping Well – Primary Care, said: “There is going to be a national campaign on this. It is not just Bradford and Craven, it is an issue across the country. We are seeing an increase in violence against GPs. 

“In Manchester one GP suffered a fractured skull in an attack.”