Incidents of violence against NHS staff leaps

The
level of reported incidents of violence and aggression against NHS staff
working in acute, mental health and ambulance trusts has increased by 13 per
cent, finds research.

A
study by the National Audit Office reveals that around 95,500 incidents were reported
in 2001-02 and only a fifth of trusts met the Department of Health’s national
improvement target of a 20 per cent reduction by April 2002.

The
NAO attributes part of the increase to better awareness of the need to report
the incidents and more widespread use of common definitions of what constitutes
violence and aggression.

But
many trusts consider that increased hospital activity and higher patient
expectations – particularly in relation to waiting times – have also
contributed to a rise in the actual levels of violence.

There
is little or no data on the financial impact of violence and aggression but,
based on their estimates of the cost of work-related accidents, the National
Audit Office estimates that the direct cost is likely to be at least £69m a
year. 

This
excludes staff replacement costs and the human costs, such as stress, low
morale, lost productivity and high staff turnover, which are known to be
substantial.

Head
of the National Audit Office Sir John Bourn said: “It is unacceptable that the
very people who are trying to help the sick and injured are themselves subject
to violence and aggression on a daily basis.

"Apart
from the immediate impact on the individuals concerned, the experience or
threat of violence causes increased stress and sickness absence, lowers staff
morale and drives individuals out of the health sector at a time of serious
staff shortages.” 

The
NAO reports concludes that the NHS needs to do more to establish partnerships
with the local police, the Crown Prosecution Service, social services and the
media to ensure that there is a clear understanding of different organisations’
roles leading to a clear and consistent approach to dealing with violent
individuals and incidents in NHS settings.

By Ben Willmott

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