Rise in reported assaults against NHS staff

New figures published by UNISON have shown that physical assaults on NHS staff rose by nearly 10 per cent last year in England, with reported attacks on health workers in hospitals with an A&E department up 21 per cent.

Following a Freedom of Information request to all 244 NHS trusts in England, of which 181 responded, the figures show that the large increase in the acute sector, including that 21 per cent rise for A&E departments, represents 18,720 assaults in 2016/17.

Furthermore, trusts who treated 90 per cent or fewer of their patients within 18 weeks of referral, which marks their performance target, saw an average increase in reported assaults of 36.2 per cent in 2016/17, up 1,857 on the previous year. The union also suggests that trusts which are tackling large financial debts were more likely to have witnessed a big rise in the number of reported attacks on staff.

If measured with predictions covering the whole NHS, the total number of reported violent incidents in 2016/17 is likely to reach 75,000, the equivalent of 200 every single day.

Sara Gorton, head of health at UNISON, said: “Across the entire NHS, staff shortages are harming patient care and helping to create a hostile environment where health workers are increasingly at risk of being assaulted. It’s no accident that trusts where the pressures seem the most extreme – where there are huge financial deficits or where it’s a struggle to meet growing demands on services – have seen the steepest rise in the number of attacks. This desperate situation is only set to worsen as the squeeze on resources gets tighter.

“Now that there is no NHS or government organisation collecting data on assaults nationally, the picture is growing increasingly unclear. The safety of staff, who care for us when we are sick or injured, and their patients should be paramount. The government should reverse its ill-thought out decision to axe NHS Protect immediately.”

The figures were published alongside Health Service Journal.

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