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Nurses to lobby MPs for tougher sanctions on those who assault NHS staff

Nurses who have been assaulted while at work will lobby MPs next week to push for tougher sanctions for those who attack NHS staff.

Nurses who have been assaulted while at work will lobby MPs next week to push for tougher sanctions for those who attack NHS staff

Since 2008, it has been a specific offence to assault a doctor, nurse or midwife in Scotland while they are working. The Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005 carries a penalty of up to 12 months imprisonment and/or a £10,000 fine.  

Stop assaults
 NHS Protect data reveals that more than 70,000 NHS staff were assaulted
in 2015-16 – the highest for five years. Picture: iStock

On 20 October Labour MP for Rhondda, Chris Bryant, will present the second reading of a private members bill in parliament calling for a similar law in England and Wales.

Two days before, RCN members, including those who have been assualted themselves while at work, will be heading to parliament to lobby MPs to back the bill.

Act would be positive move

RCN senior employment relations adviser Kim Sunley told Nursing Standard: 'We are going to lobby MPs to support the bill, some of the members attending will tell of the effect being assaulted had on them.

‘The NHS Scotland staff survey of 2015 found physical attacks on staff decreased by 10% since the act was introduced in 2008.

‘There will obviously be other contributing factors, but it is still a significant measure of the law’s impact.’

Data from NHS Protect reveals that more than 70,000 NHS workers were assaulted in 2015-16 – the highest for five years.

A separate survey earlier this year of 6,000 NHS workers by NHS Employers found 28% reported experiencing physical violence in the previous 12 months.

Criminal sanctions

Data from England shows that a very small proportion of physical assaults against NHS staff currently result in criminal sanctions.

Ms Sunley added: ‘I often hear of members’ frustration at cases being dropped or perpetrators being "let off" with a caution.

‘Many attacks go unreported as a result, and those who do report them, say they feel let down and unsupported by their managers.

‘This could be because the managers are reluctant to lose a member of staff while proceedings are in progress.

‘The NHS should learn from London Underground which supports its staff every step of the way when they accuse passengers of assaulting them.’

Prevention and support services

Ms Sunley is keen to see more prevention and support services set up in the NHS.

She said: ‘A new law won’t be a panacea for everything, but it will be a welcome deterrent.

‘Of course more needs to be done to prevent physical assaults ever happening, including risk assessments and lone worker safety devices.’


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