Scrapping staff assault data collection to create ‘dangerous blind spot’

The government has revealed that it will no longer keep regularly tracking NHS staff assaults.

Since NHS Protect was scrapped this year, the question of who would collect the information has gone unanswered until ministers addressed it in Parliament yesterday.

The previous collection method will be replaced by an optional annual survey of NHS workers, meant to record the number of attacks over a year.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) argued the move will create a “dangerous blind spot” in data on the rising number of assaults.

“It is totally inadequate to rely on optional surveys, especially if the law is being tightened,” said Kim Sunley, senior employment relations advisor at RCN. “The official body, before it was disbanded, warned ministers the level of assaults was rising. It should not have been removed and the government must take their role more seriously.”

The RCN said that, in the last year, more than half (56%) of its staff had experienced physical or verbal abuse from patients and a further 63% from patients’ relatives or other members of the public.

The news comes the day before MPs are set to debate a new Private Members Bill, proposed by Labour MP Chris Bryant, which would double the maximum time an attacker can be imprisoned for assaulting a worker to two years.

Sunley continued: “This bill represents a vital step towards achieving that, but without the ability to fully monitor the figures, it will be difficult to quantify the scale of the problem, or the effectiveness of any new law.”

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