Call for government to take action over rise in attacks on NHS staff

Physical assaults on NHS staff rose by 4% last year.

Physical assaults on NHS staff rose by 4% since last year.

Violence against staff needs to be tackled head-on, says the RCN. Photo: John Behets

There were 70,555 attacks on staff from April 2015 to March 2016, compared with 67,864 in the previous year. This is a year-on-year increase of 2,691 assaults.

In 2015-16, there were 53 assaults per 1,000 staff, compared with 52 per 1,000 in 2014-15. Medical factors — where the perpetrator did not know what they were doing or did not know what they were doing was wrong due to medical illness, mental ill health, severe learning disability or treatment administered — are involved in more than 50,000 assaults in each of the past two years’ figures.

Action needed

Royal College of Nursing director of membership relations Chris Cox said: ‘The government needs to take action now and introduce a national programme to tackle violence head-on before this issue spirals out of control.’

Mr Cox said: ‘Nursing staff are working in difficult enough conditions as it is. It is unacceptable that going to work brings the threat of violence and danger, but this recorded increase may be a symptom of worrying levels of patient and family frustration and aggression, as care is delayed and staff try to cope under difficult circumstances.’


Mr Cox said longer waits and pressures of understaffed units can create a ‘tinderbox’ atmosphere, with assaults leaving a lasting effect on staff and costing the NHS more than £60 million a year.

‘It is likely the reported assaults are just scratching the surface of the problem, with many not being reported because staff don’t believe action will be taken. For this reason and to deter potential perpetrators, sanctions should always be imposed on those who wilfully hurt staff,’ he added.

Further information

NHS statistics for assaults on staff

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