A Norfolk hospital is continuing to experience high levels of abuse from patients despite hiring the services of a security firm.

Figures published by James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) reveal how abuse incidents sharply increased once Covid restrictions were lifted in the spring of last year, culminating in more than 50 incidents across the hospital in September.

By December, that figure had roughly halved, but remained at a higher level than at almost any point in the year leading up to the pandemic’s outbreak in March 2020.

Paul Morris, director of nursing and patient safety, said at a Friday meeting of the Gorleston hospital’s board of directors that there were clear reasons for why abuse was being reported at particularly high levels in certain parts of the hospital.

He said some of the worst affected wards were areas in which “cognitive impairment perhaps is more common”, and gave the example of people undergoing recovery from having had a stroke.

In the hospital’s emergency department, Mr Morris said staff were often dealing with people whose behaviour had been affected by “drugs, alcohol or injuries”, in addition to A&E being a “very high-paced” and “quite noisy” environment.

Other badly-affected wards were, he said, places in which cohorts of patients are going through treatment which can result in them becoming confused or disoriented.

Mr Morris said the board had been good at supporting those wards that need a better ratio of nurses to patients, and that additional staff had been allocated for “enhanced observation” of patients to further support certain wards.

The hospital has also introduced mandatory in-house conflict resolution training - and a violence and aggression panel to review all incidents and place markers on patient records where the need is identified.

In August 2021, the trust posted on Facebook that staff had “been dealing with increasing amounts of rude and abusive behaviour”.

But the numbers kept rising, and the following month saw more than 50 abuse incidents across the hospital - the highest in at least two and a half years.

The hospital confirmed at that time it had engaged a security company to work overnight in A&E and at the main entrance.

Since September 2021, the number of abuse incidents has been steadily declining, but remained in December at the highest level since April of that year.