Nurses and other NHS staff in England are facing an increase in violence, according to latest figures.
Overall, there was a rise of 5.8% in total reported assaults from 59,744 in 2011-12 to 63,199 in 2012-13, according to the data published by NHS Protect.
Meanwhile, the number of criminal sanctions following reported assaults increased by 201, from 1,257 to 1,458 – a rise of 15.9%.
The figures cover reported physical assaults against NHS staff in England and were collated from 341 health bodies across the country.
Richard Hampton, head of local support and development services at NHS Protect, called on trusts to take “firm action” in all cases of assault against NHS staff.
“We urge all NHS staff to report assault and acts of violence against them. Employers must do all they can to support staff in preventing incidents and pursuing offenders,” he said.
NHS Protect noted that new guidance is to be launched shortly, with the aim of providing staff with the tools to “de-escalate and reduce challenging behaviour within the NHS”.
Unison described the rise in attacks as “unacceptable”. Christina McAnea, the union’s head of health, said: “Sadly, this is only the tip of the iceberg as violence on NHS premises remains an under-reported problem.
“We’re pleased that more people are being prosecuted for assaulting staff but much more still needs to be done to ensure the NHS provides a safe working environment,” she added.
Ms McAnea suggested pressure on services was causing “growing patient frustration”.
The Royal College of Nursing raised the same issue. Peter Carter, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “We are concerned that frontline staff may be at greater risk because of additional pressures on services, leading to a growing level of frustration from some patients.
“If employers fail to provide a safe working environment for their staff it simply increases these pressures and this is bad for staff, bad for patient care and bad for the NHS.”
He added: “There are instances where these assaults or aggressive behaviour are related to a clinical condition, however employers must do more to prevent incidents.”
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