THE number of assaults on patients and staff at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary has increased – despite security guards being introduced to address the problem.
Since April, two guards have been stationed in the hospital's accident and emergency department from 7pm–7am every day.
In the three months before the scheme began there were 37 violent and verbal incidents but in the four months from April to July there were 69.
Even allowing for the extra month of data that represents a significant increase.
The figure includes 47 violent incidents against staff, 18 verbal incidents against staff, three violent incidents against patients, and one violent incident against a non specified person .
The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust has now decided to extend the scheme until the end of September before deciding whether to make the guards permanent.
A trust spokesman said: "We take the safety of our staff while they are at work very seriously, which is why we took the decision to trial a security guard scheme at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary and Furness General Hospital.
"Since the trial started at the end of March 2009, the security guards have been based at the accident and emergency departments at both sites but have also been able to respond to any incidents that may arise in other parts of the hospitals.
"The decision has been made to extend the pilot scheme until the end of September 2009.
"This will enable us to gauge whether, over the six month period, the presence of the guards has had a positive impact on our staff feeling safer at work and whether they have helped to reduce the numbers of violent or aggressive incidents at our hospitals."
White Lund-based FGH Security has been employing the guards.
Its security guarding manager Dan Willis said the figures had risen simply because incidents were now being reported more often. There had been no major incidents or any involving the guards themselves.
"Previously, the hospital staff had often been too busy to report an incident but now there are people dedicated to dealing with it," he said.
"I think the incidents were always there but we often find that because there's an actual presence there to deal with it, the number of incidents reported rises.
"Initial reports from staff are that they are much happier having security there in case of any problems."