IRISH nurses are to be trained in defending themselves against violent and aggressive patients due to ongoing concern over incidents in A&Es across the country.

A document drawn up between the HSE and the Irish Nurses' Organisation (INO) outlines the necessity for such training but it is now feared funding may not be available to implement the report's recommendations.

"The use of physical interventions is an inherently hazardous procedure which poses potential risks of both physical and psychological trauma for both patients and staff," the document notes.

"There may be circumstances in which physical interventions may be deemed necessary as the only or most appropriate option. It is critical that in such situations staff are trained and competent in the employment of safe, effective techniques in order to preserve the safety of all concerned."

The Linking Service and Safety report into workplace aggression says the cost of replacing staff as a result of such incidents is unknown but "suggest a serious financial burden" on services.

While sanctioned by Health Service Executive (HSE) management, there are now growing concerns that ongoing funding cuts may place the programme in jeopardy. Further negotiations are due next month but according to the INO a policy document on the issue was endorsed by head of the HSE Brendan Drumm in a letter last April.

"Work-related aggression and violence is grossly under reported and verbal aggression is especially so," the report says. "Many staff sustain minor injuries from physical assaults while major injuries are rare. For some staff, however, the consequences of being assaulted can be devastating.

"Staff may experience emotional distress subsequent to occurrences of work-related aggression and violence which is not limited to occurrences of physical violence."

The document aims to put in place a management system to define and control future training and also addresses the potential costs associated with aggressive incidents in Irish hospitals.

While training has been identified as necessary, there remain question marks over how best to approach the matter and what to offer staff.

INO industrial relations officer Albert Murphy said Drumm had endorsed the report in a letter last April and the matter is due for further discussions in September. However, funding remains a key factor.

"That would be a concern – this falling off the table – because there have been ongoing incidents in A&Es," Drumm said. "It has been recognised in the HSE that this is something they have to do and are obliged to do."