Violence against NHS staff in England rose sharply last year, despite the 'zero tolerance' policies of many trusts, statistics have suggested.
Figures from the NHS Counter Fraud and Security Management Service (CFSMS) showed there were 55,993 reported physical assaults in 2007-08, up 284 from the previous year's figure of 55,709. During the same period, the number of sanctions against people who committed assaults also rose to 992 - an increase of 123 on the previous year, and a substantial rise from the 51 recorded in 2002-03.
Richard Hampton, head of the CFSMS, said: "For too long, NHS staff have been prepared to accept some level of violence or abuse as a part of the job."
The health workers' union Unison described the figures as "shameful". Karen Jennings, head of health, said: "I fear that the all-night drinking culture and a lack of respect is fuelling violence against dedicated NHS paramedics, nurses and health staff who need to be given the protection they deserve."