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'Overdue' legislation to reduce number of assaults on staff will cover all nurses

A draft law which was seeking to make it a specific offence to assault emergency staff in England and Wales has been widened to include nurses in all settings.

A draft law which was seeking to make it a specific offence to assault emergency staff in England and Wales has been widened to include nurses in all settings.


Picture: Daniel Mitchell

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill has been introduced to tackle rising numbers of assaults on NHS staff.

When it was first presented by Labour MP for Rhondda Chris Bryant in July this year, it only covered staff working in emergency departments or urgent treatment centres.

During a meeting this week the government and Mr Bryant agreed an amendment to widen the definition to include those employed for the purposes of providing NHS health services, who interact with individuals receiving the services or the public.

Anyone convicted of an offence under the proposed law could be jailed for up to 12 months, receive a fine, or both.

'Significant step towards protecting nurses'

The RCN, who had previously called for nurses across all settings to be covered by the eventual law, and called the move a 'significant step towards protecting nurses'.

Senior employment relations advisor Kim Sunley said: ‘Being assaulted at work is a constant threat for thousands of health workers, and it’s not confined just to those dealing with emergencies.

‘Violence is still too often seen as ‘part of the job’ by employers and the authorities.

‘This legislation is long overdue and we will continue to work with MPs to secure the best result for our members.’

Scotland bill

The Emergency Workers Act in Scotland, passed in 2005, provides for a penalty of up to 12 months imprisonment or a £10,000 fine, or both, for anyone convicted of assaulting NHS staff. In 2008, the law was extended to include community nurses, midwives and GPs.

Mr Bryant revealed how during the most recent of the bill covering England and Wales that ‘concerns were expressed about whether the definition had been drawn too tightly’.

He added: ‘The bill will not itself end all the assaults and inappropriate behaviour.

‘There is a duty of care on all employers, whether that is the police, the NHS, an ambulance trust or whatever, to ensure that their staff are safe.

Concerns over rising numbers

‘That is one of the reasons why the trade unions have played such an important role.’

During the meeting MPs expressed concerns at the fact NHS assaults have risen from 59,000 to 70,000 per year in four years.

The bill will receive its next reading in April 2018.

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