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Reported assaults against NHS staff in England rose 6% last year

But staff and employers need to do more to report and prosecute offenders, says NHS Protect

Caroline White

Friday, 29 November 2013

The number of criminal sanctions taken in the wake of reported assaults against NHS staff in England has risen by almost 16% over the past year, the latest figures show, but employers and staff can do more to bring the perpetrators to book, says NHS Protect.

The 2012-13 figures for reported physical assaults against NHS staff in England, collated from 341 health bodies across the country, show that the number of criminal sanctions taken rose from 1257 to 1458—a rise of 15.9%.

Overall, there was a rise of 5.8% in total reported assaults from 59,744 in 2011-12 to 63,199 in 2012-13. The figures add up to an assault rate of 21 per 1000 staff in the acute sector, 39 per 1000 in ambulance services, 210 per 1000 in mental health services.

NHS Protect urges health bodies to take advantage of the joint working agreement with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service and use existing guidance to pursue local arrangements building on this national agreement to ensure that criminal assaults do not go unpunished.

It says that employers should seek advice from the enhanced network of NHS Protect’s Area Security Management Specialists (ASMSs), which can assess risks of violence, and pursue legal action when assaults do occur.

Staff should be adequately trained to use available powers under the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 to respond decisively to low-level nuisance behaviour before it escalates into violence, it says.

“NHS staff should expect to be able to provide care in a safe environment, free from violence and physical assault. NHS Protect urges employers to take firm action in all cases of assault against NHS staff,” commented Richard Hampton, Head of Local Support and Development Services at NHS Protect.

"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.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that every day more than 173 NHS workers are physically assaulted and that only one in 40 cases results in a criminal sanction," said UNISON head of health, Christina McAnea. “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 said.

"We also believe that the more staff are involved in decisions that affect both their safety and patient care the better equipped they are to deal with violence in the workplace,” she added.

NHS Protect has been included in the forthcoming Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Bill in order to provide new tools for dealing with persistent anti-social behaviour within the NHS.

And it will shortly be issuing new guidance on the prevention and management of challenging behaviour in NHS settings in a bid to help NHS staff de-escalate confrontational incidents and reduce violence the NHS.

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