300,000 healthcare staff assaulted in past five years

NHS Protect urges staff to speak up about incidents

Almost 300,000 healthcare staff have been subject to ‘unacceptable’ physical assaults in the past five years, new figures have revealed.

NHS Protect, which tackles crime in the health service, looked into the scale of physical attacks on staff in England, ranging from bites and pinches to more serious attacks.

The investigation revealed 216,462 assaults on staff working in mental health and 82,513 in the acute sector between 2010 and 2015.

Reporting assaults

NHS Protect has called on staff to report every physical assault so that employers can support staff, share best practice and, where appropriate, support prosecution.

Unison head of nursing Gail Adams urged nurses to speak out.

‘I think all too often we accept and tolerate behaviour that in other professions would not be acceptable,’ she said.

A true picture

‘We need every incident to be reported so that we get a true picture of the level of abuse which health professionals are confronted with.’

A sample of 3,548 assaults in the acute sector found the perpetrator in 57% of cases was aged over 75. In a sample of 32,134 mental health cases, 24% of perpetrators were over 75.

RCN professional lead for care of older people Dawne Garret said attacks could be prompted by older patients confused and frightened by unfamiliar environments and new faces.

Delirium in older patients caused by complex medical conditions could also contribute to incidents, she said.

Changing the environment

Geraldine Rodgers is a nurse consultant for frailty and long term conditions at North East London NHS Foundation Trust.

She oversaw the transformation of an older people’s mental health ward at Goodmayes Hospital, Essex, last year, including a homely environment in the dining room, an indoor garden room and improving signage.  

Physical aggression fell by 40% and verbal aggression fell by 59% as a result.

‘Nurses should work with families, friends and carers so you get to know the patient and know what is normal for the patient,’ Ms Rodgers said.

‘They know their loved ones better than anybody and they can see when they are in pain.’



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