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.