Assaults on nurses: RCN calls for more detail on number of prosecutions

College says Crown Prosecution Service data fails to specify job roles of emergency workers

College says Crown Prosecution Service data fails to specify job roles of emergency workers

Picture: Alamy

The RCN has criticised the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for failing to communicate the number of prosecutions for assaults against nurses.

The college’s comments follow the CPS’s publication of figures that reveal there were 20,000 offences charged under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act between November 2018 and November 2019.

However, this data does not include a breakdown of the job roles of those assaulted.

Call for more detail so effectiveness of act can be monitored 

RCN national officer for employment relations Kim Sunley said the lack of specific data was disappointing.

‘We need a system whereby NHS England regularly receives information from the CPS on the number of prosecutions for assaults on nursing staff, so that we can monitor the effectiveness of the act,’ she said.

A recent survey of 8,307 RCN members revealed that 29% had experienced physical abuse at work.

What is the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act?

  • This legislation was introduced in England and Wales in November 2018.
  • It doubled the maximum prison sentence for individuals who assault public sector workers from six months to one year.


In response to the RCN’s request for more detail, a CPS spokesperson said: ‘We cannot break the statistics down further as this would require a manual examination of thousands of files from across the country.’

The spokesperson added that new guidance had been agreed between the CPS, NHS England and other bodies, which is designed to ensure that prosecutors seek the maximum sentence in court, with special consideration given to the vulnerability of the emergency worker at the time of the assault. 

NHS England was contacted for comment. 

Legislation in other parts of the UK

In Scotland, an emergency workers act has been in place since 2005, and was updated in 2008 to include healthcare workers.

The act specifies a penalty of up to 12 months’ imprisonment and/or a £10,000 fine for individuals who assault an emergency worker.

Northern Ireland has no equivalent legislation.

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