The RCN has called on the public to respect nurses during the Christmas period.
The college said nurses and A&E staff had to brace themselves for a surge in alcohol fuelled attacks from abusive and, sometimes, violent patients.
RCN general secretary Peter Carter said: ‘If you go out drinking have a good time, enjoy yourselves but, if you find yourself in a busy and hard-pressed A&E department, please act responsibly.
‘This Christmas please care about those who could be caring for you,’ he added.
Richard Hampton, head of the NHS Security Management Service, added: ‘NHS staff are dedicated to helping others and they deserve respect from those they help at this and any other time of year.’