NHS workers are less stressed, suffer fewer work-related injuries and see fewer potentially-harmful errors, according to the health service’s annual staff survey.
But there are still “unacceptably high” levels of violence towards NHS workers, the survey found.
The study by the Healthcare Commission watchdog polled more than 128,000 staff working in 326 trusts across England.
The percentage of staff saying they suffered work-related stress has declined from 39% in 2003 to 33% in 2006. There was also a decrease in the number of staff suffering injury or illness because of work, down from 22% in 2003 to 17% in 2006.
The commission also praised trusts for other improvements in safety; illustrated by a fall in the percentage of staff saying they saw errors, incidents or “near misses” with potential to harm patients, down from 49% in 2003 to 38% in 2006.
However, levels of violence and abuse being experienced by staff in the NHS have increased. Figures showed a slight increase from last year – 31% experienced violence or abuse in 2006, compared to 30% in 2005.
Thirteen per cent of staff said they experienced violence from patients last year, while levels of harassment, bullying and abuse edged up by two percentage points.
Anna Walker, chief executive of the Healthcare Commission, said: “I know there has been a lot of action by trusts to tackle the problem of violence and abuse in the workplace, but more must be done. We are calling on trusts to redouble their efforts in this area.
“Much of the violence and abuse experienced by staff is from patients and their relatives. We must all adopt a zero tolerance policy to such behaviour.”
Alastair Henderson, deputy director at NHS Employers, said: “Today’s results show that staff have a positive view of working in the NHS, despite the significant changes that they have experienced in the last year.
“However there is clearly work that still needs to be done particularly on tackling bullying and harassment and on the quality, effectiveness and frequency of appraisals.”