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NHS Staff Shortages Blamed for Rise in Violence

20 April 2018
 April 20, 2018

It was reported earlier this week that assaults on NHS workers have increased by nearly 10% from 2016-17 – with nurses, paramedics and mental health staff most likely to be on the receiving end.

Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Health Service Journal on behalf of Unison, includes responses from 181 of the 244 NHS Trusts in England.

Figures show that there were 56,435 physical assaults recorded within this period, which if extrapolated across the NHS as a whole could potentially mean this figure is closer to 75,000 – as many as 200 a day.

Incidents include a nurse being slapped by a patient, one threatened with a knife and another witnessing a colleague being punched.

Staffing pressures have been cited as a contributing factor in the rise, with many blaming chronic understaffing and delays in patients accessing medical services.

Sara Gorton, Unison’s Head of Health stated, “Staff shortages are harming patient care and helping to create a hostile environment.”

“Now that there is no NHS or government organisation collecting data on assaults nationally, the picture is growing increasingly unclear. The safety of staff, who care for us when we are sick or injured, and their patients should be paramount,” she added.

Unison has called for the reinstating of NHS Protect who previously recorded the number of incidents for each Trust. Without this information being so readily available, there is a danger that the issue of violence towards staff in the NHS may be swept aside.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom as in mental health services, where staff are seven times more likely to be assaulted, a much smaller increase of 5% has been reported. The implementation of initiatives such as ‘No Force First’ which eliminates restrictive interventions have helped reduce incidents by providing a better environment for both patients and staff.

Guys and St Thomas’s is one Trust that have been highlighted for their pro-active approach to employee safety, with lone worker alarms issued to community staff and training given on conflict resolution.

These measures go towards improving staff safety but it remains to be seen what impact this will have on future results.

As Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers says, “All NHS workers should feel able to perform their vital jobs without the fear of violence.”