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Nearly 600 convicted for crimes against health workers

17 January 2008

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Almost 600 people in Scotland have been convicted since the Emergency Workers Act was introduced to protect health workers, new figures show.

Public health minister Shona Robison told Holyrood’s Justice Committee that 1,256 charges have been laid since the legislation came into force in May 2005 – with 1,008 of these leading to a prosecution.

She said 594 of these have resulted in convictions, with 218 ongoing, meaning there has been a successful conviction rate of 75%.

The data was released as MSPs gave their backing to moves to extend the legislation.

At the moment staff working in hospitals and ambulance workers responding to emergencies are protected by the Act.

It will now be extended to also cover GPs, other doctors, nurses or midwives working in the community.

But public health union Unison voiced concerns that the extension will not cover other staff such as GP receptionists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social work staff and home carers.

Unison’s Scottish organiser Dave Watson said: “It plans to open up a two-tier system where staff are covered by virtue of their qualifications and job, even if they are working alongside the doctors or nurses affected.

“For example if a nurse and a therapist are attacked visiting someone at home – the nurse would be covered by the new Act – the therapist would not.”

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Please note that administration staff are specifically excluded from the Act, as indicated above. I took this up with the Scottish Health Minister prior to the Act being passed. The reaction was best described as indifferance and total lack of interest in the problem, despite explaining the reasons for my concerns as the practice manager” – Name and address supplied