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MPs to debate calls for tougher sanctions on those who assault NHS staff

The RCN has backed calls for tougher sanctions on those who assault clinical staff.
Violence

The RCN has backed calls for tougher sanctions on those who assault clinical staff.

MPs are today debating whether assaulting clinical staff should be classed as a specific offence.

The debate was triggered by an online petition set up as part of radio station LBCs Guard our Emergency Medical Services campaign (GEMS), which attracted more than 116,000 signatures and has gained the backing of Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron.

Legal protection

An LBC investigation found that assaults on NHS staff have risen to 193 per day over the past five years.

The campaign says that NHS staff should be offered similar legal protection to police officers under the Police Act 1996, which makes it

The RCN has backed calls for tougher sanctions on those who assault clinical staff.


Assaults on NHS staff have risen to 193 per day. Picture: John Behets

MPs are today debating whether assaulting clinical staff should be classed as a specific offence.

The debate was triggered by an online petition set up as part of radio station LBC’s Guard our Emergency Medical Services campaign (GEMS), which attracted more than 116,000 signatures and has gained the backing of Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron.

Legal protection

An LBC investigation found that assaults on NHS staff have risen to 193 per day over the past five years. 

The campaign says that NHS staff should be offered similar legal protection to police officers under the Police Act 1996, which makes it a specific offence to attack a police officer conducting their duties.

But the Ministry of Justice has said that a specific offence relating to NHS staff would not offer any additional protection.

A new deterrent

RCN senior employment relations adviser Kim Sunley said: ‘A specific law would have a powerful deterrent effect, and may go some way towards increasing the number of criminal sanctions against those who wilfully assault nursing staff.’

An RCN members’ survey found that 56% had experienced physical or verbal abuse from patients and a further 63% had received abuse from patients’ relatives or members of the public.

Ahead of today’s debate at 4.30pm, the RCN highlighted the case of mental health nurse Sharon Morris, who was attacked by a patient at a mental health unit in Wales in September last year.

The incident was captured on CCTV and reviewed by Ms Morris’ team, who considered the patient fit to be interviewed by police.

However, when the police went to speak to the patient, the ward manager and patient's solicitor said he was not fit for interview.

Traumatic

The police dropped the charges. It was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service but no further action was taken. 

Ms Morris said: ‘I was off sick for three months and I’m now seeking redeployment away from patient areas; I get anxious around patients, so I'm currently just doing office work.

‘There used to be trust and respect attached to wearing a uniform, and between nurses and patients.’

Ms Sunley added: ‘As Sharon’s case shows, assaults do not just happen in emergency settings. Nurses working in mental health units or out in the community are also at risk.

Cost to the NHS

‘Some are left traumatised, with many having to take time off work to recover, both emotionally and physically. Some leave nursing altogether, no longer willing to accept such abuse.

‘And as well as the trauma these attacks cause, they also cost the NHS an estimated £69 million a year through staff absence, loss of productivity and additional security. That’s the equivalent of 4,500 nurses.’

A Ministry of Justice response to the online petition said: ‘Assaults against NHS staff are unacceptable, and already criminalised. If the victim serves the public, an assault is treated more seriously. A new offence would not provide additional protection.’

Further information:

The debate will be screened live by Parliament TV here

In other news:

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Severe deprivation in early childhood can affect mental health in adulthood

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