Hospital zone is declared `caffeine free'

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The Independent Online
NHS MANAGERS have declared the accident and emergency department of a north London hospital a caffeine-free zone in an attempt to reduce attacks on staff.

Coffee and cola have been excluded from the A&E area of the Whittington Hospital and the drinks machines dispense only decaffeinated beverages following advice from design consultants that caffeine could increase agitation in patients under stress.

The change, introduced in May, is part of a pounds 200,000 refurbishment of the department aimed at keeping patients calm. A neutral colour scheme, new seating arrangements, and the removal of "patronising" signs telling them not to smoke or drink are said by staff to have halved incidents of violence.

Russell Emeny, director of operations, said the idea of doing without caffeine had come from the Health Care Design Consultancy, a company that had advised on the refurbishment. "It is probably not good practice to give people a stimulant in a situation where some may become agitated while they are waiting for treatment. We do offer coffee in the hospital cafe, which is not a million miles away," he said.

Michael Clifford, professor of food safety at the University of Surrey, said it was "doubtful" that excluding caffeine would have any benefits. "You could put at least as good an argument that depriving someone who is used to caffeine of their regular coffee or cola could itself cause problems."