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Violence against NHS staff so common, police ‘struggling to cope’

999 calls for assistance after assaults on nursing staff and other cases of abuse are running at an estimated five every day, on average
Police car parked in front of hospital ED as figures show high volume of police call-outs in response to violent incidents in the NHS

999 calls for assistance after assaults on nursing staff and other cases of abuse are running at an estimated five every day, on average

Police were called to thousands of violent incidents at Scottish hospitals in the past five years, with ‘extremely worrying’ levels of abuse against healthcare staff.

Social affairs magazine 1919 found police were called out almost 10,000 times since 2018. About 4,000 of these related to violence towards staff or other patients. The high call out rates mean officers are called to NHS settings on average more than five times every day, according to data gleaned from freedom of information requests to Scotland’s NHS employers.

And with some health boards, including larger ones such as NHS Lothian and NHS

999 calls for assistance after assaults on nursing staff and other cases of abuse are running at an estimated five every day, on average

Police car parked in front of hospital ED as figures show high volume of police call-outs in response to violent incidents in the NHS
Picture: Alamy

Police were called to thousands of violent incidents at Scottish hospitals in the past five years, with ‘extremely worrying’ levels of abuse against healthcare staff.

Social affairs magazine 1919 found police were called out almost 10,000 times since 2018. About 4,000 of these related to violence towards staff or other patients. The high call out rates mean officers are called to NHS settings on average more than five times every day, according to data gleaned from freedom of information requests to Scotland’s NHS employers.

And with some health boards, including larger ones such as NHS Lothian and NHS Lanarkshire, not responding to requests for information, the true figure is likely to be much higher.

Prevalence of assaults is an extra challenge for nurses already under pressure

RCN Scotland’s associate director Norman Provan said nurses should not have to put up with assaults at work.

He said: ‘These figures are extremely worrying. The increasing demands and staff shortages are piling the pressure onto nursing teams who are doing their best in very challenging circumstances.

‘They should not have to put up with verbal or physical assaults. All health boards have a duty of care to protect their staff and we encourage members who experience any type of aggression or violence to report it.’

The highest number of police call-outs were to workplaces places in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde – Scotland’s most populous health region – with 4,422 calls between 2018 and February of this year, of which 2,318 were linked to violence.

999 calls to police from health boards in Scotland

Number of call-outs since 2018

  • 4,422 NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
  • 2,247 NHS Tayside
  • 1,170 NHS Highland
  • 1,103 NHS Ayrshire and Arran
  • 270 NHS Dumfries and Galloway
  • 225 NHS Borders
  • 46 NHS Grampian
  • 7 NHS Shetland and NHS Orkney combined

NHS Fife, NHS Forth Valley, NHS Lanarkshire, NHS Lothian and NHS Western Isles did not provide figures

Source: 1919 magazine

Police struggling with high volume of calls to violent incidents in NHS

The figures revealed the vast majority of 999 calls came from major hospitals, with a handful made from health centres, pharmacies, and patients’ homes.

Scottish Police Federation chair David Threadgold said the situation was becoming unsustainable as officers – like NHS workers – struggle with staff shortages.

He said: ‘The situation across the NHS estate – even without returns from large NHS authorities – is becoming unsustainable from a policing perspective. Colleagues from the RCN highlight "increasing demands and staff shortages" and Police Scotland is no different.’

A spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: ‘Our staff are entitled to work free of threats, assaults and intimidation and we take any act of physical or verbal abuse very seriously.

‘We fully encourage staff in their pursuit of taking the perpetrators of violence against them through the justice system and offer extensive support to any member of staff who has been assaulted either physically or verbally.

‘We work closely with the local police, who respond extremely quickly to any calls from our staff and offer support and advice when needed.'


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