Patients' groups say plans by acute hospitals in Glasgow to restrict violent and aggressive patients to emergency treatment only are unworkable.
Recent months have seen Southern General Hospital and the Victoria Infirmary described in Scottish tabloid newspapers as 'battlegrounds'. Over 60 per cent of staff at the hospitals have been attacked, according to a survey by Strathclyde University published last month.
The survey reveals a catalogue of incidents in accident and emergency departments, including staff being threatened with knives and broken bottles, and strangled. In one case a TV was thrown at a nurse and another had her head repeatedly banged against a wall. A staff log of attacks in October describes how a fight broke out in the waiting room of the Victoria Infirmary with four men swearing, shouting, spitting and breaking furniture.
The idea of banning some patients follows a pilot study by South Glasgow University Hospitals trust which has been looking at ways of reducing aggression at both hospitals.
Bernard Scully, the trust's human resources director, said the trust had introduced staff training in violence control, a review of each incident to evaluate causes and to decide if further action is required, examination of environmental factors, public notices, and informing patients of the consequences of any attacks.
He said: 'We have a violence-at-work group and we are looking at the possibility of contacting patients who have been violent and informing them that we would prefer if they sought elective treatment elsewhere, but they can still be treated for emergencies. Banning is not a word we would use but we want to make it clear how strongly we feel.'
Unison head of health in Scotland Jim Devine, said: 'We do not have a problem with banning these patients from hospitals for elective treatment. This kind of behaviour is completely unacceptable.'
But Pat Dawson, director of the Scottish Association of Health Councils, said total bans would not work: 'I have no idea how a patient with that kind of background would access elective care in another hospital. In Glasgow where would a patient go? Trusts have to work with individuals. I think this sort of approach could result in legal problems.'
Over 200 nurses and medical staff at South Tees Acute Hospitals trust on Teesside are being trained in self-defence methods, conflict management and 'breakaway techniques' by Cleveland Police after a steep rise in assaults.