POLICE are being sent to deal with incidents at Doncaster Royal Infirmary around 16 times a week according to Freedom of Information figures.
The statistics were disclosed by South Yorkshire Police after a suicidal man who pulled out a knife at the hospital’s accident and emergency unit when officers arrived to arrest him was given one ‘last chance’ by a judge.
Jason Holdgate, 20, was told by Judge Paul Watson QC at Sheffield Crown Court he needed help not prison as he sentenced him to a two-year community order.
The case highlights the number of times staff at the Armthorpe Road site face difficult patients and visitors.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show during 2012 police were called to 274 incidents at A&E.
And there were another 569 occasions last year when officers were called to Doncaster Royal Infirmary, although the incidents log does not specify which department or the reason.
Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust declined to comment on the figures, but union officials said their members should not have to face violence at work.
Pam Johnson, Unison’s head of health for the Yorkshire region, said: “This is a cause of great concern. We carried out a survey which showed 40 per cent of staff had been assaulted or subjected to violence.
“It’s an escalating problem at a time when the NHS is under pressure because of cutbacks. Staff who put themselves on the frontline to help the public are faced with attacks at the same time as trying to do their jobs.
“I’m sure the management would be as concerned as we are. We put ourselves on the line every day to care for people and deserve to be properly protected.”
One of the more frightening recent episodes was described by prosecutor Carl Fitch, who said police were called to Doncaster Royal Infirmary on January 16 after a reports of a violent man with a knife.
When officers arrived they found Holdgate ‘drunk, very aggressive, pacing backwards and forwards’ outside the public entrance to A&E.
Mr Fitch said Holdgate refused to put the knife on the ground and swore at an officer, so a dog handler was called.
When the officer arrived and asked him to hand over the weapon, he dropped the 11cm blade, Mr Fitch said.
Holdgate was arrested and after a brief struggle was taken to Doncaster police station.
He told officers he was an alcoholic and had been drinking shots and beer since he’d finished work because he was depressed because of family problems and wanted to kill himself.
Mr Fitch said: “He decided to go to hospital because he felt suicidal.
“He knew if he the mental health crisis team knew he had knife, they would take it seriously.”
Cedric Hennis, defending Holdgate, who admitted possessing a knife, said: “It was a cry for help. The defendant rang 999 on the way to the hospital and told them what he was doing.”
Judge Paul Watson QC gave Holdgate, of King’s Road, Doncaster town centre, a two year community order with two years supervision by the probation service, and said: “You are somebody who is in need of a lot of help which you can get from the probation service.
“But any breach of this order will leave me without any choice at all. It’s your last chance.”