According to a recent survey carried out by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), almost half of community nurses have been victims of abuse within the last two years. 11% of those have faced physical abuse or assault as well as verbal abuse.
With around 68,595 community nurses in the UK, this equates to a staggering 32,640 subjected to abuse. Unless an appropriate solution is sought, the number will increase in accordance to the rising number of lone working nurses.
Reacting to findings of the survey, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary, Dr Peter Carter commented: ‘It is horrifying to hear of a worsening situation, and one where people who go to work each day to care for people end up feeling alone, afraid and under attack instead. It is hard to give the best care when you go to work in fear – and we really need all employers to take the safety of their staff seriously.’
Dr Carter went on to say: ‘Sadly, it seems that the safety of staff is something that is subject to compromise when money is scarce. This is an utterly false cost saving – not only do staff often need time off following physical injury or assault, but the risk of stress and burnout is severe and can continue in to long term absence.’
Increases in case load, lack of staff, patients’ and relatives’ expectations and anti-social behaviour in areas visited have lead half of those surveyed to believe that the risks involved with their role has grown. Just 22% of community nurses said that their managers knew where they were when working alone and almost half said that risk assessments were hardly carried out.
In 2009, lone worker safety alarms were rolled out amongst community nurses. However, only 13% said that they had access to such units. One nurse told the RCN: “One specific incident, I was locked in a family home; they refused to let me leave. I was there some time and received no call from the office to determine my safety and after the incident there was no follow up with the family, no additional safety plan and in fact it was down to me to visit again. I took a student for back up!”
It is evident that community nurses are in need of a more robust lone worker protection service that will allow them to make emergency calls at the drop of a hat. In line with their Duty of Care, the NHS needs to ensure that no lone worker is made to feel threatened and unprotected when carrying out their daily tasks.