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Nurse attackers go unpunished


Assaults on NHS staff have dropped slightly but the proportion of attackers who are punished by police is still below 2 per cent and has declined.

Official figures show there were 54, 758 assaults on NHS employees in 2008-09 but only 941 led to offenders receiving sanctions such as fines, imprisonment, community orders and cautions.

This is equivalent to 1.72 per cent of the total number of attacks, down from 1.77 per cent in the previous year.

Richard Hampton, head of the NHS Security and Management Service, said trusts and local security management specialists needed to ensure attacks were followed up by police.

He told Nursing Times: “Trusts need to support staff by not only making a report, but supporting the application for a sanction.”

The most recent staff survey revealed nearly a third of physical assaults were not reported, he said.

He added: “There’s almost an acceptance that it’s part of the job, we strongly need to counter that.”

A Nursing Times analysis of figures going back to 2003-04 reveals that, while the number of assaults has dropped by 9 per cent in the past five years, as a proportion of staff the figures have dropped by only 1 per cent.

And they have risen since 2006-07, when 42 per 1,000 staff were assaulted, compared with 45 per 1,000 in 2008-09.

Unison head of health Karen Jennings said:  “We need more sanctions and a national system put in place for reporting assaults. Staff need to know that something will be done if they are attacked.

“If prosecutions are not possible, they need to know that sanctions and measures are being put in place to prevent the attack from happening again.”

Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter called the figures “completely unacceptable”.

He said: “The very slight decline may be a step in the right direction but too many employers are failing to invest in measures to prevent attacks on staff in the first place.

“Staff across the NHS deserve to have their safety taken seriously by their employers, the government and the criminal justice system.”

Lone workers in community settings continued to be put at risk despite a government scheme providing subsidies for alarms and training, he said.


Readers' comments (3)

  • We had a patient whose father was aggressive and abusive to the nursing staff. So much so that the staff were stressed out. It was reported but nothing was done.I feel that he should have been warned regarding his behaviour and if it didnt improve he should have been banned from visiting the hospital.We were also treated with rudeness and agression from the daughter the whole time she was in. This behaviour to nursing staff should be addressed immediately and acted upon.There is no point whatsoever on notices everywhere that rude behaviour wont be tolerated ,when nothing is done about it and they are just allowed to carry on with it .It is a disgrace!

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  • Mertha Nyamande RMN

    Violence has never been part of the job in mental health servicesolicies need to be clear in this regard and support staff to pursue assaults to appropriate resolutions as per NHS SMS. Such incidents, unfortunately, affect staff morale and may increase sickness and turnover.
    it is unfortunate that some of the patients may be accutely unwell, however, staff should never be put in such situations where they become victims of violence in the workplace. where violence cannot be managed safely through PSTS initiatives, patients who assault others should prosecuted as mentally disordered offenders and be moved to appropriate environments where they can be cared for safely. Reporting alone does not solve the problem, action need to be taken to send clear messages.

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  • I am a learning disability nurse in a challenging behaviour unit - I was recently assaulted by a patient within the unit - he punched me twice in the face and then dragged me on to the floor trying to pull my top off - fortunately a member of staff managed to get to us and he saved me from any furthur injury. However, we are currently being investigated re. whether or not holding my attacker for two minutes following the assault was 'reasonable force' ... not quite sure where that leaves us nurses !!!

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