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Violence against NHS staff continues to rise

Assaults on acute and ambulance sector staff have risen the most

Caroline White

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Hospital staff and paramedics have borne the brunt of rises in violence perpetrated against NHS workers, indicates a report from NHS Security Management Services.

The national data, which covers every organisation in the NHS, including strategic health authorities for 2009/10, shows that staff working in mental health trusts continues to be subjected to the highest levels of violence.

According to the declared number of employees as at the end of March 2010, the assault rate was 191.7 per 1000 members of staff, with the total number of prosecutions numbering 412. The same number of criminal sanctions was applied in acute trusts in 2009/10, where the assault rate was 16.8 per 1000 staff.

In ambulance trusts where the Department of Health figures on the number of employees was below that declared by the trusts themselves, the assault rate was 32.9 per 1000 employees.

There was a wide discrepancy in the number of PCT employees declared by the Department of Health and the trusts themselves. The Department figures indicate an assault rate of 0.9 per 1000 workers based on 369,672 employees, but health body figures indicate a much higher rate of 14 per 1000 employees, based on 234,544 staff declared.

There were no assaults on staff working in strategic health authorities.

Commenting on the figures, UNISON, the UK’s largest public service union branded them an “absolute disgrace,” pointing out that while violence rose 1.7% across the board on last year’s figures, in the acute and ambulance sectors saw rises of 20% and 3.5%, respectively.
 
Karen Jennings, UNISON Head of Health, 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.”
  
She added: “It is appalling that some members of the public see NHS staff as soft targets for assault. UNISON would like to see tougher legal action against those people found guilty of assault.”
 
Better reporting of assaults may partly account for some of the increase, says the union, and the report calls for caution in the interpretation of the figures, pointing out that many NHS organisations were reconfigured in 2009/10 in line with the Department of Health’s Transforming Community Services guidelines.

Other factors, such as population served, urban/rural location and level of service provision all need to be taken into account, it says.

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