Statistics provided by NHS Protect have revealed that 70,555 NHS staff were assualted in 2015/16, the highest number of assaults in 5 years. That’s a shocking 200 assaults on doctors, nurses and other NHS staff in England every day.
As well as verbally threatening assaults and death threats, attacks can be extremely serious with staff often being punched, grabbed by the throat, had chairs thrown at them and in some cases even had limbs broken.
Staff are left to deal with the assualt with little support and are left feeling as if violence is just a part of their jobs. One A&E employee Dr Jess Brittain-George, even describes assault as a running joke in the staffroom;
“Most NHS staff can say they’ve been attacked or felt unsafe at work, especially those of us on the front line. Everyone is on alert and looking out for the patient who is going to kick off. When I joined as a student in 2008 it was never mentioned. I did an A&E placement and no-one talked about it. Now it’s a running joke in the staffroom – ‘What’s happened to you today? I’ve been hit again’, or something like that.”
As well as the obvious physical impact, both verbal and physical assaults can have a long-term psychological impact on the individual involved. Employees can be left traumatised and fear an attack happening again, likely having an effect on job performance and general health.
It is clear that more needs to be done to protect NHS staff as they work hard to provide a much needed service across the UK. NHS Protect currently work to advise hospitals on staff safety and step in to secure convictions in cases where police have decided not to act.
However, the BBC announced today that their work is expected to end in March as a result of such high figures. A new body will be stepping in to continue the work of NHS Protect and work to reduce assault figures in the coming years.
Employers also need to ensure they are doing all they can to protect their staff. It is important to carry out risk assessments, reduce the chances of violence and aggression and ensure they are providing the support they need for employees who have been assaulted. For NHS employees who work alone, it is crucial that a reliable check-in system is implemented so their safety can be monitored as they work and an alert raised if something were to happen.