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Violence in the NHS: almost a quarter of nurses tell survey about being attacked

Latest NHS Staff Survey reveals assaults, patient safety, and work stresses as key concerns 
nurses looks frightened and holds her hands up defensively

Latest NHS Staff Survey reveals assaults, patient safety, and work stresses as key concerns

Almost a quarter of NHS nurses and midwives in England faced violence at work in 2019, the latest NHS Staff Survey suggests.

This is despite a change in the law in November 2018 that allowed courts to issue longer sentences for assaults against emergency workers.

A total of 147,542 NHS nurses and midwives responded to the survey and among them, 35,115 (23.8%) reported at least one incident of violence by a patient, a patient's relative, or member of the public in the previous 12 months. In 2018,

Latest NHS Staff Survey reveals assaults, patient safety, and work stresses as key concerns 


Picture: iStock

Almost a quarter of NHS nurses and midwives in England faced violence at work in 2019, the latest NHS Staff Survey suggests.

This is despite a change in the law in November 2018 that allowed courts to issue longer sentences for assaults against emergency workers.

A total of 147,542 NHS nurses and midwives responded to the survey and among them, 35,115 (23.8%) reported at least one incident of violence by a patient, a patient's relative, or member of the public in the previous 12 months. In 2018, that figure was 30,185 of 127,902 nurses and midwives answering the same question.

Out of eight staff groups, nurses were the third most likely to have experienced violence. On average, 15% of NHS staff across all occupations said they had been subject to violence in their workplace.

Stress, back problems and making mistakes

The staff survey found almost 40% of nurses and midwives had seen mistakes or ‘near misses’ that could have led to patient harm.

And 44% of nurse and midwife respondents said they had experienced stress linked to work, and 31.5% reported having musculoskeletal problems.

 

Guidance for sentencing

Health secretary Matt Hancock called for healthcare professionals to continue reporting incidents of violence to their employers. He claimed guidelines issued in January for case brought under the Assaults on Emergency Workers Act 2018 will speed up prosecutions and strengthen sentencing. 

NHS England announced that from April, services will be able to bar any patient or visitor who harasses staff working in non-emergency care.  

Areas that improved for nurses since 2018

  • 62.3% of nurses and midwives responding to the survey said they often or always look forward going to work, up from 61.5% in 2018
  • 55.9% said there were opportunities for flexible work patterns, up from 54.5% in 2018
  • 92.3% felt their role makes a difference to patients, increasing from 92.1% in 2018

 


Further reading

NHS Staff Survey 2019 


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