A&E staff are increasingly being subjected to verbal abuse and threats of violence amid a surge in attendances, St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals has revealed.

Due to high levels of coronavirus infection rates in the local area, visiting restrictions at Whiston Hospital remain in place.

This is to reduce the number of people moving through the hospital and to protect the safety of both patients and staff.

However, alongside a recent increase in attendances to A&E, the hospital has seen the number of incidences of abuse against staff also rise significantly.

Currently, patients are asked to attend the department alone, unless they have a disability need or they are receiving end of life care.

But staff are increasingly dealing with verbal assaults when asking friends or relatives to leave the hospital, despite this being for the safety of all visitors and staff.

Vicky Booth, an A&E sister, said: “We are experiencing a lot of verbal abuse and have even been threatened with violence too.

“It’s really upsetting because we are just trying to keep everybody safe.”

At the height of the pandemic people were staying away from A&E and the number of attendances reduced.

However, figures for September have shown an 11 per cent increase in activity compared to the same time last year.

A&E matron Su Hobbs said staff are working hard to provide the highest standards of emergency care in a safe environment to patients and should not be receiving abuse for simply doing their job.

“The levels of abuse my staff have had to deal with lately is unacceptable,” she said

“It’s a sharp contrast to what we experienced a few months ago with people clapping for carers and doing all they could to support us.

“We understand that if you or your loved one needs to visit A&E it can be a distressing time, but we are here to help you and our restrictions are absolutely necessary if we are to protect everyone.

“We don’t take these decisions lightly, but we are still very much in the middle of this pandemic and your safety is just as important to us now as it was during the peak.”