Print

27/11/2012 - Violence against NHS Staff

Health and social care workers have a right to expect a safe and secure workplace, but reports indicate that they can be up to four times more likely to experience work-related violence and aggression than other workers.
 
The term ‘work-related violence’ covers a wide range of incidents, not all of which involve injury, but do include any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work.
 
Reported levels of abuse do vary by position, with those most likely to experience any form of abuse being A&E doctors and Psychiatry, with complaints/patient liaison staff and hospital receptionists also more likely to report incidents of verbal abuse.
 
Males are also more likely to report experiencing all three types of abuse. However this may be due to the types of positions males hold, as they are more likely to be A&E doctors and Psychiatry.
 
Differences in the amount of time spent with the public and/or differences in role, may also explain the fact that full-time workers are more likely than part-time workers to report experiencing verbal abuse and threats of physical violence.
 
The majority of all types of abuse occurs during day-time hours, however, relatively speaking, a higher proportion of threats/physical abuse occurs during the night.
 
According to a Unison study over 70 per cent of 1,200 surveyed staff had been victims of aggression or violence over the last year and around 40 per cent had considered walking out of the profession. One in eight of those who had been victims of violence had been threatened with a weapon, while nearly a fifth suffered an assault that required medical help or first aid.
 
The union said the results are the consequence of the Con/Dem NHS cuts, with more than 85 per cent claiming staffing levels had become insufficient over the last year.
 
Unison's head of health Christina McAnea said: "This illustrates the sometimes grim reality for healthcare assistants and assistant practitioners," adding that "when two in five healthcare assistants are considering leaving the profession, something is very wrong."
 

She added that government cuts have created "demoralized staff who are trying to deliver the best possible care they can in ever more difficult circumstances. Cuts aren't working and if these vital professionals are depleted even more, the impact on patient care will be enormous."

 
Many are not reporting incidents of abuse – and some do not feel that the NHS takes the appropriate actions to deal with reports of abuse.
 
For the majority of those not reporting incidents of abuse/threats, the rationale provided indicates that they considered these types of abuses to be an occupational hazard and/or they didn’t think any action would be taken.
 
Patrick Harrington of Solidarity Trade Union - "It is unacceptable that caring NHS staff are faced with intimidation and violence. Victims suffer both physically and psychologically. This sort of behaviour can damage health care professionals' confidence affecting their ability to do their job in the long term.

"Staff should not accept incidents of aggression or violent behaviour as a normal part of the job. Employers and employees should work together to establish systems to prevent or reduce aggressive behaviour. The Government must be forced to think again about the damage that its demand for £20 billion in so-called efficiency savings is having on the NHS."
 
Report from Ian Bell