Reported assaults against frontline NHS staff have risen by 6% in the last year according to new figures released by NHS Protect.
The statistics, collated from 341 health bodies across England show a rise of total reported assaults from 59,744 in 2011/12 to 63,199 in 2012/13 – an increase of 5.8%. What’s more, the figures show a dramatic 16% increase in the number of criminal sanctions taken in the wake of reported attacks. However, NHS Protect state that employers and staff can do more to bring perpetrators to prosecution.
The figures add up to an assault rate of 2.1% of staff in the acute sector, 3.9% in ambulance services, and over one in five (21%) in mental health services. Alarmingly, the figures equate to more than 173 physical assaults on NHS workers every day.
NHS Protect urges health bodies to take advantage of the joint working agreement with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service and use existing guidance to pursue local arrangements building on this national agreement to ensure that criminal assaults do not go unpunished.
It says that employers should seek advice from the enhanced network of NHS Protect’s Area Security Management Specialists (ASMSs), which can assess risks of violence, and pursue legal action when assaults do occur.
Staff should be adequately trained to use available powers under the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 to respond decisively to low-level nuisance behaviour before it escalates into violence, it says.
“NHS staff should expect to be able to provide care in a safe environment, free from violence and physical assault. NHS Protect urges employers to take firm action in all cases of assault against NHS staff,” commented Richard Hampton, Head of Local Support and Development Services at NHS Protect.
What can be done?
It’s imperative that robust measures are put in place to protect all NHS employees as part of the Trust’s Duty of Care. Skyguard has seen a dramatic increase in NHS workers using their personal safety devices, such as the MySOS, to enable them to discretely and rapidly call for help. By offering them a ‘lifeline’ of support when facing a difficult situation on their own, it’s proven to increase morale and confidence, knowing someone will be on call to help at the single press of a button.
All of Skyguard’s devices have the ability to record all calls and actions. They’re digitally recorded on secure servers within our Incident Management Centre, should they be needed as legal evidence. Skyguard’s audio recordings have led to numerous successful prosecutions – exactly what Richard Hampton is encouraging all employees to do.
“We urge all NHS staff to report assault and acts of violence against them. Employers must do all they can to support staff in preventing incidents and pursuing offenders,” he said.