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Readers panel: Should the law be changed to make it a specific criminal offence to attack NHS staff?

Radio presenter Nick Ferrari has set up a petition calling for a change in the law to give NHS staff similar legal protection to that offered by the Police Act 1996, which makes it a specific offence to attack a police officer conducting their duties. Nursing Standard readers’ panellists have their say. 
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Radio presenter Nick Ferrari has set up a petition calling for a change in the law to give NHS staff similar legal protection to that offered by the Police Act 1996, which makes it a specific offence to attack a police officer conducting their duties. Nursing Standard panellists have their say

Beverley Ramdeen is a senior lecturer in adult nursing in Hertfordshire

Between April 2015 and March 2016, there were 70,555 attacks on NHS staff, compared with 67,864 the previous year. The rise in this number highlights the need for a change in the law to give NHS staff the same protections as police officers. Having a law in place could act as a deterrent as well as an acknowledgement that this behaviour will not be tolerated.

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Radio presenter Nick Ferrari has set up a petition calling for a change in the law to give NHS staff similar legal protection to that offered by the Police Act 1996, which makes it a specific offence to attack a police officer conducting their duties. Nursing Standard panellists have their say


Should NHS staff be given similar legal protection to police officers?  

Beverley Ramdeen is a senior lecturer in adult nursing in Hertfordshire 

Between April 2015 and March 2016, there were 70,555 attacks on NHS staff, compared with 67,864 the previous year. The rise in this number highlights the need for a change in the law to give NHS staff the same protections as police officers. Having a law in place could act as a deterrent as well as an acknowledgement that this behaviour will not be tolerated. 

 

Pete Hawkins is a staff nurse in an emergency department in Bristol 

Pete Hawkins

Violent behaviour is always a challenge in health care and should never be tolerated, but having similar legislation could be problematic, considering assaults are often carried out by confused, unwell patients. Nurses often deal with people when they are at their most vulnerable, and there would likely be mitigating circumstances in many cases. However, all episodes should be reported. 

 

Jane Scullion (@JaneScullion) is a respiratory nurse consultant in Leicester 

The rise in attacks on NHS staff is commensurate with the growing lack of respect for those working in the NHS and other front-line services. This includes the police, who also deal with vulnerable people at stressful and difficult times. We should be able to come to work without fear of being attacked, safe in the knowledge that swift and appropriate action will be taken if we are. Assault is assault. Current deterrents are not working, more needs to be done.

 

Lauren Ferrier is a mental health nursing student in Scotland 

Lauren Ferrier

We deal with more than our fair share of violence and aggression in mental health settings, and there are times when charges are brought against patients. But the current law is sufficient for these purposes, and as patients mostly become aggressive in emotionally-charged situations, they are not thinking clearly enough for this law to act as a deterrent. There are more practical ways to prevent aggression, including better risk assessment, better training and more support for staff.


Readers panel members give their views in a personal capacity only

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