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NHS workplace abuse: ‘nurses bear the brunt of public anger’

Nurses being put in the public firing line by their managers when it comes to delivering unpopular messages about services, peer tells House of Lords
Lord Laming speaks in House of Lords debate about tackling abuse of NHS staff

Nurses being put in the public firing line by their managers when it comes to delivering unpopular messages about services, peer tells House of Lords

Nurses are at greater risk of abuse at work because they are the ones delivering bad news about scarce NHS resources, according to a leading cross-bench peer.

Former chief inspector of social services Lord Laming accused managers of putting nursing staff in the public firing line, during a House of Lords discussion on reducing abuse of nurses in the NHS.

Managers ‘put forward nurses’ to convey awkward messages

He suggested nurses were more likely to experience abuse because

Nurses being put in the public firing line by their managers when it comes to delivering unpopular messages about services, peer tells House of Lords

Lord Laming speaks in House of Lords debate about tackling abuse of NHS staff
Lord Laming says nurses are forced into situations where they are likely to experience abuse Picture: Parliament TV

Nurses are at greater risk of abuse at work because they are the ones delivering bad news about scarce NHS resources, according to a leading cross-bench peer.

Former chief inspector of social services Lord Laming accused managers of putting nursing staff in the public firing line, during a House of Lords discussion on reducing abuse of nurses in the NHS.

Managers ‘put forward nurses’ to convey awkward messages

He suggested nurses were more likely to experience abuse because they were often the ones given the task of conveying ‘unwelcome messages about the limitations of resources’.

‘There are a lot of managers in the health service but they put forward nurses to give the unwelcome message to patients and their relatives,’ he told the Lords.

Health minister Lord Kamall said he was not aware of this problem but promised it would be investigated.

Prevalence of abuse is a nurse retention issue

Nurses saw levels of verbal and physical abuse increase during the pandemic.

With waiting lists for treatment at record levels and services under pressure due to staffing shortages, there are fears that abuse of nurses and other healthcare staff could get worse.

Labour peer Lord Clark of Windermere said abuse of nurses was a growing problem.

‘Nurses and other NHS staff are being abused on a daily basis and many are being reduced to tears,’ he said.

He said reducing violence and abuse was crucial to improving nurse retention and called for urgent action from government.

Minister cites perpetrators’ mental state as significant factor

Tory peer Lord Kamall speaking in the House of Lords
Lord Kamall. Picture: Parliament TV

Tory peer Lord Kamall said violence against nurses and other NHS staff was unacceptable. However, he said NHS research showed abusers were often patients in mental health crisis or with dementia or other neurological conditions, ‘rather than the classic perception of attacks on staff by the public’.

He said the government and NHS were taking a range of steps to tackle abuse, including ensuring people who were deliberately violent being prosecuted; funding security measures such as cameras and safety screens; providing training for staff on managing difficult situations and improving well-being support.

Under the NHS violence prevention and reduction standard, employers are required to implement plans to tackle violence in the workplace.


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