The number of assaults on NHS staff has risen by nearly 10% over the course of the last year, according to new statistics.
Figures show 68,683 assaults were reported in 2013/14, up from 63,199 the year before. This equates to around 188 assaults every day and around 54 assaults per 1,000 workers over the course of the year.
The trade union Unison suggested that the actual figures may be even higher, as violence in the health service often goes unreported.
Staff in working in mental health services fared worst, experiencing the lion’s share of violent behaviour. There were 47,184 reported assaults in the course of 2013/14, equivalent to 201 per 1,000 workers.
“It is absolutely shocking that every day more than 188 NHS workers are physically attacked,” said Unison’s head of health, Christina McAnea. “The fact this figure is rising year on year should ring alarm bells.
“The cuts and pressure on the service have caused growing patient frustration but no staff should be assaulted or feel unsafe at work. This is unfair on staff who do their best to care for patients and their families when they're at their most vulnerable. There can be no excuse for abusing or assaulting staff and all incidents should be taken very seriously. Sadly, violence on NHS premises often goes unreported and many workers are left to suffer in silence.
“The NHS must do its best to provide a safe working environment. Both employers and the police need to take these incidents seriously particularly in mental health premises where we expect full support and cooperation to guarantee the safety and security of staff.”
NHS Protect, the body that leads on work to identify and tackle crime across the health service, urged health bodies to ensure staff are trained to use available powers to respond decisively to low-level nuisance behaviour before it escalates into violence.
Richard Hampton, head of external engagement and services at NHS Protect, said: “No NHS staff should be physically assaulted and we encourage staff who are victims of violence to press charges against assailants.
“Those who work in the NHS have the right to provide care in a safe environment. Employers must do all they can to support staff in preventing incidents and pursuing offenders.”
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