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New Measures to Protect NHS Staff Introduced as Assaults Reach 5 Year High

31 October 2018
 October 31, 2018

A survey of NHS workers in England found that over 15% of staff have experienced violence in the past year, with one in seven employees on the receiving end of attacks from patients, relatives and the general public – the highest level in 5 years.

This news comes as Health Secretary, Matt Hancock is set to introduce his NHS Violence Reduction Strategy, a new initiative to tackle the issue of abuse towards medical staff.

Promising a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to violence, Mr Hancock said: “NHS staff dedicate their lives to protecting and caring for us in our times of greatest need and for any one of them to be subject to aggression or violence is completely unacceptable.”

Sadly, both verbal and physical assaults have become a common part of daily life for some NHS workers.

One nurse, Shelley Pearce described to the BBC how she was taken hostage by an alcoholic patient on an acute ward.

“She wanted to leave and when I said no, she smashed a piece of plastic and put the sharp piece to my neck. It was terrifying,” she said.

Luckily the incident came to a safe resolution, but it could easily have been much worse. Indeed Shelley’s colleagues did not realise she was missing for some time, until she was able to alert security staff by pressing the alarm button in a lift.

New measures to combat the increase in violence:

  • Faster prosecution of offenders due to a new partnership between the NHS, Police and Crown Prosecution Service.
  • Better training for staff in dealing with violent situations, including those involving mental health patients and dementia sufferers.
  • Care inspections will look to scrutinise Trusts plans to reduce violence.
  • A new system will make it easier for staff to record assaults.
  • NHS England are to identify areas staff are most vulnerable.

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill that proposes to double the sentence for assaults on emergency workers from six months to one year is shortly expected to become law.

These changes are to be welcomed by NHS Trusts who have been responsible for staff safety since the disbanding of advisory body NHS Protect in March 2017.

Royal College of Nursing National Officer, Kim Sunley said: “Nurses and health care workers understand their roles aren’t risk-free but – to many – it still seems as if the threat of physical violence is a daily reality.

“These measures are another way to change this for good by increasing the accountability of employers for the safety of their staff, and ensuring those who wilfully assault healthcare workers feel the full force of the law.”

Many Trusts have identified the issue of lone working as an area of risk to staff, with those visiting patients at home being particularly vulnerable. As an approved supplier to the NHS, Skyguard now work with over 150 Trusts across the UK, providing personal alarms that enable lone workers to get help quickly if they feel threatened. These devices are available directly via the 2018 Lone Worker Framework Agreement which came into effect in September.