RAPISTS are targeting patients in Dorset’s hospital wards and psychiatric units, new statistics have revealed.

Men and women are the victims of serious sexual assaults in the county’s hospitals.

And the number of those affected is rising. In 2014, two sexual assaults on a female and one rape of a female were reported.

By 2018, police were alerted to 13 offences – representing an increase of more than 300 per cent within four years.

Attacks reported to officers in 2018 included nine sexual assaults against females, one rape of a male, one rape of a female and two sexual assaults against males.

Between 2014 and 2019, 11 incidents were reported on hospital wards. Others were reported to have taken place in psychiatric and mental health units, surgical units, hospital lounges, and outpatient facilities.

Dr John Puntis, a consultant paediatrician and co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public, said: “Alleged victims are frequently vulnerable patients.”

Offences nationally are three times more likely on mixed wards, which are more likely to be found in mental health units.

The Daily Echo approached Dorset’s clinical commissioning groups and hospital trusts for comment. We have not heard back from the Royal Bournemouth Hospital or the Dorset Cliunical Commissioning Group.

Roger Ringham, assistant director of Dorset HealthCare’s security and fraud experts team, said: “We take assaults on our staff and patients extremely seriously and all incidents are fully investigated. Our main aim is to ensure all our staff are able to do their job without fear of assault and that patients are safe in our care.

“We have a number of measures in place to keep such incidents to a minimum. These include bi-monthly meetings to review all incidents, mandatory prevention and de-escalation training for all staff, and security mechanisms such as CCTV and personal attack alarms.”

Mark Mould, chief operating officer at Poole Hospital, said: “As a hospital, we are doing all we can to protect our patients, visitors and staff whilst delivering our services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“This includes a substantial investment into security provision in the form of CCTV and door access controls - both measures designed to assist in the prevention and detection of crime.

“We are committed to reducing and deterring incidents of assault.”