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Nurses reveal shocking abuse from patients as backlog rises

Abuse blamed on frustrations due to stretched services amid pressures exacerbated by the pandemic, but bullying by fellow nurses also reported
Silhouette image of woman confronting a nurse and pointing a finger at her

Abuse blamed on frustrations due to stretched services amid pressures exacerbated by the pandemic, but bullying by fellow nurses also reported

Nurses have spoken of the shocking abuse they face from patients as the NHS struggles to cope with a rise in demand for care.

Both patients and staff are becoming increasingly frustrated with the situation the NHS is in, with staff shortages and a patient backlog of six million people causing already stretched services extra strain.

‘As we are the faces that the public see we do get the brunt of a lot of their anger as they are becoming increasingly frustrated with the situation that

Abuse blamed on frustrations due to stretched services amid pressures exacerbated by the pandemic, but bullying by fellow nurses also reported

Silhouette image of woman confronting a nurse and pointing a finger at her
Image: iStock

Nurses have spoken of the shocking abuse they face from patients as the NHS struggles to cope with a rise in demand for care.

Both patients and staff are becoming increasingly frustrated with the situation the NHS is in, with staff shortages and a patient backlog of six million people causing already stretched services extra strain.

‘As we are the faces that the public see we do get the brunt of a lot of their anger as they are becoming increasingly frustrated with the situation that the NHS is in,’ one nurse wrote on Nursing Standard’s Facebook page. ‘Staff are equally frustrated with the whole situation and knackered from working long hours and covering for the many staff still absent.’

Nurses given the task of conveying ‘unwelcome messages about the limitations of resources’

Another said: ‘Working in an ED abuse occurs on a daily basis… it is not acceptable but even when you Datix these incidents nothing gets done, staff are reduced to tears and frightened to walk into patient waiting areas, it is not acceptable.’

Some nurses recounted specific experiences of abuse at the hands of patients, including a sexist slur. One nurse said a patient used a profanity and called her a slut when advised she was not ready to be discharged. She added: : ‘There’s some lovely people out there.’

Former chief inspector of social services Lord Herbert Laming
Lord Laming

Another said: ‘Got shouted at by patient and husband. Tried to get prescription done but it was not good enough. Unfortunately, I was unwell and collapsed in the patient's house. Horrible experience.’

It comes as former chief inspector of social services Lord Herbert Laming accused health service managers of putting nursing staff in the public firing line during a House of Lords debate on reducing abuse of nurses in the NHS.

Lord Laming, a crossbench peer, said 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’.

According to an NHS document issued in February, Delivery plan for tackling the COVID-19 backlog of elective care, six million people are now on the waiting list, up from 4.4 million before the pandemic.

Rise in the number of nurses reporting bullying and harassment by colleagues

But it is not only patients who are abusing nurses. The pandemic has seen a rise in the number of nurses reporting bullying and harassment by colleagues. Female nurses from black and minority ethnic groups are the most likely to experience abuse from other members of staff, according to the latest NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard published by NHS England.

Some 32% of black and ethnic minority female nurses had experienced abuse from their peers in 2020, compared with 25.5% for white female nurses.

Meanwhile male nurses – from white and black and minority ethnic backgrounds – are the most likely group to experience abuse from patients, relatives and the public.


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