latest health care news

22.12.16

Assaults in the NHS continue to rise in ‘tinderbox’ atmosphere

New figures released by NHS Protect show that assaults in the NHS are becoming more frequent, with attacks on staff in England rising in the past year to over 70,000 incidents.

NHS Protect’s annual figures for 2015/16 show that there were 70,555 reported physical assaults on NHS staff last year, up by 4% from 67,864 reported incidents in 2014-15. The number has been steadily growing in recent years with the latest figure up by 18% from the 2011-12 total of 58,204.  

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has criticised the growing trend of violence in NHS environments, calling the figures “unacceptable”.

“Nursing staff are working in difficult enough conditions as it is this Christmas,” said Chris Cox, RCN’s director of membership relations. “It is unacceptable that going to work brings the threat of violence and danger, but this recorded increase may be a symptom of worrying levels of patient and family frustration and aggression, as care is delayed and staff try to cope under difficult circumstances.”

As was the case in previous years, staff working in mental health trusts suffered the most physical assaults in 2015-16, mostly due to the greater risks of assaults involving medical factors in the sector compared to acute or ambulance settings.

By far the most dangerous mental health hospital was Calderstones, the long-stay learning disability hospital now under the control of Mersey Care NHS FT and currently proposed to be closed, which reported 1,570 assaults per 1,000 members of staff.

However, Cox suggested that in other hospitals, the pressures currently afflicting the NHS of longer waits and understaffing can create a “tinderbox” atmosphere leading to violence.

“Violence often has a lasting impact with threats and assaults leading to traumatised staff who need time off, or leave the profession - wards become still more short-staffed and patient care suffers,” Cox said.

“Assaults against staff cost the NHS more than £60m per year which should be spent on attacking the factors that contribute to violence in the first place.”

Cox suggested that the reported number of assaults is only scratching the surface with many assaults likely not to be reported due to staff not believing that action will be taken.

He recommended that sanctions should always be imposed on those who wilfully hurt staff in order to deter potential perpetrators, and urged the government to consider the reasons for the rise.

“The government needs to take action now and introduce a national programme to tackle violence head-on before this issue spirals out of control,” Cox concluded.

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Comments

Ruth Deegan   11/01/2017 at 18:30

At a time when the NHS is under severe crisis the Department of Health (DH) has seen fit to get rid of the strategic management of security arm of NHS Protect saying that assaults against staff is a local issue. Really! How can 75,000 assaults across England be a 'Local issue'? As of 31.03.17 NHS Protect will cease to deal with security management. At the direction of DH they are to change their name to the NHS Ant- Fraud Authority and become a Special Health Authority. Who is going to ensure the standards are being met after this date? Answer, nobody. The result being the NHS will go back to 2003 when the situation was chaotic and security and safety of staff, property and assets will be watered down. Who will champion the plight of the local security management specialists? Nobody! There is a distinct possibility that the standards will go and management and bean counters will identify that they don't need 'accredited' specialists and security management will merge into other roles. The Department of Health and Government is throwing the NHS to the Wolves!! NHS Protect has been silent. They don't want to rock the boat. They haven't told the RCN or other professional bodies that their security management work will cease. Shame on them!

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