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Atmosphere Described as ‘Tinderbox’ in Hospitals as Assaults on NHS Workers Rise

14 February 2017
 February 14, 2017

It was reported last week in the national press that the number of NHS staff suffering abuse whilst on duty has again risen in the past year.

Official figures released by NHS Protect, the hospital safety advisory body show that in 2015-16 there were 70,555 assaults on doctors, nurses and other health service workers. This works out at a shocking 193 workers on average being attacked every single day.

The number of attacks has increased by nearly a quarter over the past six years, with under 5% of these resulting in criminal or civil sanctions. Many of these attacks involve medical factors, with those hospitals caring mentally ill patients recording some of the highest numbers of physical assaults.

Some fear that these worrying statistics are just the tip of the iceberg, with many incidents going unreported as staff believe that no action will be taken.

Chris Cox, Director of Membership Relations at The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) described the atmosphere in some hospitals as a “tinderbox” with “longer waits and the pressures of understaffed units” creating an environment that increases the likelihood of attacks on staff.

Kim Sunley also of The RCN added that the number of assaults is “an absolutely shocking figure.”

She continued “You see some horrible physical assaults – people being punched in the face, grabbed by the throat, limbs being broken, chairs being thrown at people.

“There’s the physical impact of the injury, but also the psychological impact, the long-term effect. People are traumatised.”

How many NHS workers are assaulted

This news comes just as the NHS Framework to safeguard NHS workers is set to end on 30th April. NHS Protect oversees the measures that trusts take to prevent physical abuse to doctors and nurses, such as risk assessments and personal safety devices for those working alone.

NHS Protect issued a statement saying that it was “not appropriate for us to comment in detail” before the consultation with staff ended on 1st March.

However, it confirmed that staff were being consulted about future plans and that “work continues on the potential of identifying who might be best placed to take the lead on guiding this work, if it is felt appropriate that another body should take it forward.”

Earlier this year LBC’s Nick Ferrari launched a Government petition to stop violence on NHS staff, campaigning for new legislation to be introduced that would make assaults on doctors and nurses a criminal offence. The petition has gathered well over the 100,000 signatures required and a date has been set for this to be debated in Parliament.

With many hospital staff claiming they feel unsafe whilst carrying out a vital public service, the need for new measures to protect workers has never been greater.