New measures to reduce assaults on NHS staff have been announced by Matt Hancock, the health secretary.
Violence against NHS staff has reached its highest level in five years, with one in seven health professionals attacked in the course of their work last year, figures reveal. The latest staff survey of NHS staff in England shows that while 15% said they had experienced physical violence from patients, relatives or the public in 2013, that increased slightly to 15.2% in 2017.
Mr Hancock said: "We will not shy away from the issue - we want to empower staff and give them greater confidence to report violence, knowing that they will see meaningful action from trusts and a consistent prosecution approach from the judicial system."
Staff are to be given better training in dealing with violent situations and offenders will be prosecuted more quickly, while offenders to be prosecuted more quickly. A particular focus of the training will be on dealing with patients with dementia and mental health issues. Finally, a new system to improve recording of violent incidents will be introduced.
‘Nursing staff understand their roles aren’t risk-free but, to many, it still seems as if the threat of physical violence is a daily reality,’ RCN National Officer Kim Sunley said. ‘These measures are another way to change this for good by increasing the accountability of employers for the safety of their staff and ensuring those who wilfully assault health care workers feel the full force of the law.’
‘This is a welcome intervention from the government. All NHS workers should feel able to perform their vital jobs without the fear of violence which we know is more prevalent in mental health settings. More than a fifth of staff in mental health trusts have experienced violence at work from a patient, service user, relative or member of the public in the last 12 months,’ said Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network. ‘Our members are already doing some great work to reduce violence against staff, such as at East London NHS Foundation Trust which adopted a Quality Improvement approach which resulted in reduced violence by over 40% in its adult mental health inpatient wards in Tower Hamlets and by 60% at its acute inpatients wards. Scaling up this approach across the Trust, it has seen a 42% reduction in incidents of physical violence since 2013.’