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Violence and aggression in the emergency department


Objective: To investigate the characteristics of incidents of aggression and violence directed towards staff in an urban UK emergency department.

Methods: A retrospective review of incident report forms submitted over a 1 year period that collected data pertaining to the characteristics of assailants, the outcome of incidents, and the presence of possible contributory factors.

Results: A total of 218 incident reports were reviewed. It was found that the majority of assailants were patients, most were male, and the median age was 32 years. Assailants were more likely to live in deprived areas than other patients and repeat offenders committed 45 of the incidents reported during the study period. The incident report indicated that staff thought the assailant was under the influence of alcohol on 114 occasions. Incidents in which the assailant was documented to have expressed suicidal ideation or had been referred to the psychiatric services were significantly more likely to describe physical violence, as were those incidents in which the assailant was female.

Conclusion: Departments should seek to monitor individuals responsible for episodes of violence and aggression in order to detect repeat offenders. A prospective study comprising post-incident reviews may provide a valuable insight into the causes of violence and aggression.

  • aggression
  • emergency medicine
  • medical staff
  • violence

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