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Increase in assaults on NHS workers


There was an increase in physical assaults on NHS staff last year, with almost 57,000 incidents taking place, latest figures show.

Across England there were 56,718 assaults in 2009-10, a rise of 3.6 per cent from 54,758 the previous year, according to data from the NHS Security Management Service.

The majority of the attacks – 38,959 – were in the mental health and learning disability sector.

Another 13,219 took place in acute hospitals while 1,262 were against ambulance staff and 3,278 occurred within the primary care sector, including GP surgeries.

A total of 1,128 “criminal sanctions” were handed out during the year to people who had committed assaults, including imprisonment, fines and cautions.

Unison head of health Karen Jennings described the figures as an “absolute disgrace”.

She said: “These statistics on violence make sad and shocking reading. Nurses, paramedics and other health workers should not have to go into work fearing that they may be at risk of attack.”

Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said the figures were a real cause for concern and that financial pressures might make the situation worse.

He said: “Assaults on staff are never justified but the worry is that if pressures increase and people wait longer, the levels of frustration will rise. Nurses have been telling us that they are already doing more with fewer resources and staff.

“We are concerned, for example, that staff shortages could mean a return to the days of long waits in A&E, where tempers could flare on a regular basis.”

He added: “We would urge trusts to do everything in their power to avoid this situation for the benefit of patients as well as staff.”


Readers' comments (10)

  • Nice of UNISON and the RCN to express their concern yet again.(Talk about stating the bleeding obvious !!!!!!!!!)

    What are they actually going to do about it?

    Let`s have some action for a change.

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  • this doesn't shock me in the least.relatives and patients think it is their god given right to be rude and abusive to staff and we have to stand there and take it. what has happened to zero tolerance in the NHS.if we weren't understaffed then things would run swimmingly on the wards and all the time you can be seen coping the managers will do nothing. all it needs is another mid stafford case.

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  • If these patients and relative acted the same in the streets then the police would arrest them for breach of the peace at least if not insiting a riot but because you are a nurse etc you have to take the abuse without saying anything back. if you do say anything you are hauled in front of managers for unprofessional condut so that is where the zero tolerance comes in

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  • Well at least it's acknowledged that most incidents occur in mental health and learning disability. I recently made the decision to leave these areas due to being hit, punched, kicked, verbally and racially abused etc. after 9 years. Some staff on these wards seem to accept some of these behaviours as normal for these areas of nursing care. It is interesting to note that Unison and the RCN both take the zero tolerance view. However, nothing seems to get done; police don't press charges due to lack of witnesses etc. So for my own health I've opted to leave the mental health and learning disability field of nursing.

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  • There is no such thing as zero tolerance, unless you count that which is aimed at Nurses and scrutinizes every aspect of OUR behaviour as if any violent incident is our fault.

    True zero tolerance should be exactly that; any form of violence or abuse toward any member of staff will see you immediately ejected from the premises and refused treatment, then you will be prosecuted. Simple.

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  • Totally agree with last comment I am sick of being verbally abused by patients especially when their injuries are self inflicted through drink,drugs and general stupidity I have no hesitation in protecting my staff and innocent bystanders against abuse by calling security or the police to eject and or restrain perpetraters.

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  • A 32 year old lady who has been diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia (with a false belief that all doctors and nurses perform experiments on patients) is admitted to a psychiatric ward. It has been noticed that she has developed an ulcer on her right foot. She refuses to have her ulcer dressed. A nurse approached the patient and explained to her that the ulcer had to be dressed as it appeared to be infected. The patient becomes angry and hits the nurse. The nurse hit the patient back and when asked to explain what had happened by the manager, she explained that she did not intend to hit back. what is the legal, ethical and professional implications in this issue?

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  • This case concerns a depressed 47-year-old man who has recently been diagnosed with leukaemia and is currently undergoing ECT treatments in a psychiatric ward. The severely depressed man is refusing to eat or drink. Nursing staff have responded with a plan to force-feed the patient through an NG tube. The patient’s next of kin agrees with the nursing staff. what is the professional, ethical and legal implications of this issue?

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  • Anonymous | 21-Mar-2011 7:38 pm

    would a change of tactics help on another occasion by suggesting to a patient what needs to be done or asking rather then telling? i would also resent it if a nurse, doctor or other healthcare professional told me what i must, must not, should or should not do. People often fear loss of control of a situation which affects them and this is a perfectly normal reaction which may turn to aggression in stressful situations or in individuals with mh problems who under stress may not be able to reason so effectively enough to control their behaviour and act impulsively.

    As to the implications of the nurse's unfortunate reaction, would the RCN be in the best position to advise and give support in this matter unless somebody can answer your query here in the comments?

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  • Whilst I wholeheartedly agree that there should be zero tollerance for abusive behaviour towards any member of NHS Staff, as a member of the public I think its time that nurses and other NHS staff got out there and started doing a proper job! As a recent in-patient i was left in my own vomit for 18hours overnight while staff were too busy having a gossip and a take away around the nurses station and left in severe post operative pain due to a malfunctioning PCA pump because the nurse in charge of my care couldn't be bothered to call the duty anaesthetist. Please don't misunderstand me, there are some excellent nurses in our NHS hospitals, but they seem to be in the minority nowadays (and i've had plenty of in-patient experience to know what I am talking about!) Nursing needs to go back to core values with good communication with the client, and nurses seeing to basic human needs. I've seen so much bad practice as an in-patient that it scares me rigid. My last experience was shocking, not just to me, but to my family and to other patients in my unit who had to listen to my anguished cries of pain following major abdominal surgery and the less than tollerant attitude of a stroppy staff nurse who told me and them that I could expect some pain! Some pain would have been easy to cope with - excruciating pain was not!!!! No excuses -the nursing profession needs a shake up - fast.

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