The Hospital Authority yesterday ruled out empowering nurses to search patients and visitors for weapons, despite a surge in hospital violence. An authority board member yesterday confirmed that the idea of conducting searches was discussed at a meeting last month. But an authority spokesman said last night: 'There are no such new guidelines being promulgated to public hospitals.' The authority was responding to a report yesterday that it was planning guidelines encouraging nursing and medical staff to search suspicious patients and family members for sharp objects, lighters and other inflammables. The spokesman said the authority attached 'great importance' to occupational health and safety, and measures had been reviewed to ensure staff safety and minimise workplace violence. The measures included risk assessment and management of violence, training courses and workshops for frontline staff, psychological counselling and support, and public education. Medical sector legislator Kwok Ka-ki, who is a member of the authority's board, said guidelines to empower staff to search patients and visitors were among the measures the authority discussed in a board meeting last month. 'If you look into the statistics, we have witnessed a huge surge of workplace violence - doctors, staff and nurses being attacked by patients and relatives for various reasons,' Dr Kwok said. But he doubted searches were a practical solution. 'We need to protect the rights of patients and the public. Nobody can search anyone in fact, even in the street if they are stopped by police.' Dr Kwok said the authority had to seek legal opinion before putting any security guidelines into effect. He said it was preferable that violent patients or visitors be dealt with by police, not hospital staff. The legislator for the health services sector, Joseph Lee Kok-long, who is also an authority board member, said he not aware of any firm guidelines having been discussed. Mr Lee said he would advise the Hospital Authority to be cautious and not put nurses in harm's way. Tim Pang Hung-cheong, spokesman for the Patients' Rights Association, agreed that the authority should tread carefully. 'On the one hand we are trying to protect the patients and health-care professionals. But on the other hand we have to balance this with basic human rights, whether authority [to search] should be given to people without any restrictions,' he said.