Physical attacks and assaults against NHS staff have increased to 163 per day with fears waiting times and workforce cutbacks are to blame.
Overall assaults on NHS staff in England reached almost 60,000 last year, an increase of more than three per cent on the previous year.
The steepest rise was seen in assaults by patients who were undergoing treatment and whose condition contributed to the attack.
This means that a criminal conviction is unlikely, experts said.
Experts said they feared there were more assaults due to increasing waiting times, fewer frontline staff and ‘growing frustration as the NHS struggles to cope’.
Attacks by patients in these circumstances rose from 39,770 in 2010/11 to 46,265 in 2011/12, an increase of more than 16 per cent.
Patients with learning disabilities, mental health problems, in pain or drunk were included.
NHS Protect which investigates fraud in the health service and staff safety issues, released the figures from 425 NHS organisations.
Richard Hampton, Head of Local Support and Development Services at NHS Protect, said: “There is never any room for complacency when it comes to violence in the NHS.
“NHS Protect will continue to work closely with its partners to identify why assaults happen, provide practical tools to address threats and promote the prosecution of offenders wherever appropriate.”
New guidance will be sent to all NHS employers urged greater collaboration with the police and Crown Prosecution Service to increase the number of prosecutions and ensure all staff are appropriately trained to deal with aggressive behaviour.
Mr Hampton added: “We will be examining why we have seen this rise in assaults involving medical factors.
“It is important that good practice continues to be shared, to even out differences between trusts and focus on best practice in this area. For an injured member of staff, the question of whether an assault is medically caused may seem irrelevant, and they rightly expect to receive the best possible protection against such incidents.
Mr Hampton stresses: “Staff committed to providing our NHS should never be expected to suffer an assault at work and it will not be tolerated. NHS Protect urges employers to take firm action in all cases of assault against NHS staff.”
The figures covering 1.2m staff show there was one assault per 47 workers and 1,247 criminal convictions secured during last year.
There was no information on any injuries sustained or the nature of the attacks, if weapons were involved, for example.
Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said:“No member of staff should come to work in the NHS and be subjected to or even fear assault.
“The fact that assaults are increasing is a matter of grave concern for the RCN.
“Of course, there are some instances where assaults or aggressive behaviour are related to a clinical condition, but employers must do more to prevent them.
“There are measures advocated by NHS Protect which can help to reduce assaults against staff, from the threat of prosecution to providing alarms for lone workers and a calm environment in hospitals. However, too often these are not the reality our members experience on the ground.
“We are particularly concerned that this increase could be due to increasing waiting times, reduced staffing levels and a growing level of frustration as the NHS struggles to cope.
“Our message to employers is clear: there are measures you can take to protect your staff, and they must be taken in order to reduce the individual suffering and the time off work which these assaults can bring.”
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: “Any physical or verbal abuse against NHS staff is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
“We recently announced plans to strengthen the NHS Constitution, including making it clear that patients who are abusive or violent to staff can be refused treatment, so long as it is safe to do so.
“It is outrageous that there were so many physical assaults against NHS staff, but encouraging that greater awareness of this issue among health professionals shows that they feel able to speak out.”
Courtesy: The Telegraph
Link – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/9713725/Assaults-on-NHS-staff-increase-to-163-attacks-per-day.html