The number of NHS workers who face violence and abuse from patients and their relatives has fallen, according to new statistics from the Healthcare Commission.
Out of 209,000 respondents to the annual NHS staff survey, 28% said they had experienced either violence or abuse in the previous 12 months, compared with 31% in 2004 and 32% in 2003.
But the commission said it was too early to say whether the trend would carry on and urged NHS trusts to continue their efforts to tackle the problem.
The survey highlighted low numbers of staff reporting incidents of violence and abuse. Only half of those experiencing harassment, bullying or abuse reported it and only two-thirds (67%) of those experiencing a physical attack.
Only half of those questioned agreed that their employer would take effective action if staff were physically attacked. Only one in four reported that they had training in preventing and handling aggression from others in the past 12 months.
Anna Walker, commission chief executive, said the figures showed that more needed to be done to combat violence against NHS staff.
“NHS trusts must continue to work hard in addressing this very concerning issue to ensure that this positive start becomes a sustained trend,” she said.
Steve Barnett, director of NHS Employers – the body responsible for workforce conditions in the NHS – said the survey showed that more needed to be done in all areas.
“In particular, the Healthcare Commission highlights the figures relating to bullying and harassment in the workplace as an area for improvement,” he said. “This will be a priority for NHS Employers over the coming year.”