MORE than 200 assaults against staff were recorded at Wrexham Maelor Hospital in recent years, according to figures.

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the public turned out regularly to thank NHS staff and emergency workers for their efforts by applauding - and various displays of gratitude were visible throughout the crisis.

While the praise and admiration for frontline healthcare workers seemed universal during such a monumentally difficult time, Freedom of Information data obtained by the Leader shows how some repaid their dedication and hard work with needless abuse.

Figures provided by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board reveal the number of assaults at Wrexham Maelor Hospital each calendar year from the beginning of 2017 to April 30 this year.

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In that time, 212 assaults against staff were recorded, 27 of which were against staff in the hospital's emergency department.

In the years the data covers, both general assaults across the hospital and in the emergency department peaked in 2020.

For assaults against hospital staff across the facility, there were 38 in 2017, 36 in 2018, 31 in 2019, 50 in 2020, and 42 in 2021.

In terms of how many of those were against staff in the emergency department, there were five in 2017, four in 2018, two in 2019, 10 in 2020, and four in 2021.

So far in 2022, there have been 15 assaults against hospital staff, two of which were in the emergency department.

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Geoff Ryall-Harvey, Chief Officer for the North Wales Community Health Council, said he found the figures "very concerning."

He said: "It bumps up quite substantially in 2020 - I'd say what is happening there is that is when GP surgeries closed.

"I would guess some of it is relevant to people being frustrated with trying to see GPs, that's how I interpret that data.

"But that's not an excuse. For the NHS staff who struggled through the pandemic and have really given their all, it is a bitter blow.

"Everybody has had difficulties accessing the healthcare they need and people should be more understanding about that.

"Certainly, it was very difficult at many points in that time period for people to access a GP and it still is for some.

"For dental care, some people's only option has been to go to the emergency department and it still is.

"But none of that is a reason to be abusive to staff, whether that is physical or verbal.

The Leader: Wrexham Maelor Hospital Wrexham Maelor Hospital

"If someone wanted to make nursing and medicine a less attractive career in North Wales, that's how you do it.

"People need to think and take responsibility for their own actions."

Speaking of the assaults 'peak' in 2020, he continued: "In the emergency department, it was five times higher than the year before (2019), and if you think about the consequences of these for staff - people get PTSD from these sorts of incidents.

"They might have to be off work. They're giving everything they can and they're being abused - that's really not on.

"Behind each of these incidents is something that didn't need to happen and they have real and long lasting consequences for everybody."

Mr Ryall-Harvey said those consequences are also felt by those being cared for at the hospital.

He said: "When other patients see this happening, it is very frightening.

"You've gone to a place you hope to be safe and cared for, and to see an incident like this is extremely frightening.

"That often includes children, who are in the emergency department night and day as well."

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Sue Green, Executive Director of Workforce and Organisation Development at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, said: “Our staff work incredibly hard to care for people who are receiving treatment in our hospitals.

"We have guidance documents, training and security staff to protect against violence, aggression or abuse towards our staff while they are carrying out their duties.

"In addition, all staff are provided full support following any incident.

“We understand people who need our care are often in pain and are going through a worrying and stressful time, and because of that, tensions can sometimes run high.

"However, there is simply no excuse for verbal or physical abuse against our hard-working staff, as well as upsetting other patients within the hospital who witness any abusive behaviour."