Community nurses and healthcare assistants making home visits alone and out of hours in Croydon are being told that their fears for their personal safety are “exaggerated”, according to unions.
The Royal College of Nursing says Croydon Health Services has told community nurses and HCAs required to visit patients in the evening that cuts in funding mean visits could be carried out alone and not in pairs as they have done in the past.
“Nursing staff have reacted angrily to the proposal, in the light of a recent shooting and stabbing in the area,” the college said in a statement.
One of the clinics which nurses operate from, Moreland Road, is in the same street as a recent shooting and unease has been heightened by the riots and looting in Croydon in August.
The college claims nurses and HCAs “fear for their own personal safety” while trying to visit patients.
It said it had supported college members in taking out a grievance against their employers but after initially agreeing to staff travelling in pairs after 7pm, Croydon Health Services has now retracted the offer, offering instead 8pm.
Julie Mulvey, assistant RCN officer for South West London, said: “Of course nurses understand the financial pressures on the trust, but this can never be a reason for compromising safety and putting lives at risk.
A spokeswoman for Croydon Health said the trust “appreciates the concerns raised by staff”, adding that there had been no reported incidents of community staff being assaulted in the last five years.
She said staff who attended patients at home were offered a lone worker kit, including a device that “can monitor and record conversations that staff have with patients and alert the police if required”.
She added that around half of district nursing visits will still be carried out by two nurses – wherever the patient’s nursing needs require it – all home visits are risk assessed before being carried out, and the initial visit will continue to be done by two nurses.
“Conflict resolution training is mandatory for all frontline staff and staff are aware of the need to report any incidences of physical or verbal abuse so that action can be taken,” she said. “Many healthcare professionals – for example the Children’s Hospital at Home team – have worked in this way in Croydon for several years and have reported no problems.”