Tough new proposals to tackle violence and verbal abuse against NHS staff have been unveiled by health minister Caroline Flint.
The move came as new figures from the Department of Health showed that 60,385 NHS staff were physically assaulted by patients and relatives last year – equivalent to one assault for every 22 NHS staff.
The statistics showed that violence against staff is still widespread in the NHS:
- There is one assault for every five staff in mental health and learning disability services, or 43,097 incidents
- One assault for every 23 ambulance staff, or 1,333 incidents
- One assault for every 65 primary care trust staff, or 5,192 incidents
- One assault for every 68 staff working in acute hospitals, including accident and emergency units, or 10,758 incidents.
Under the new plans developed by the NHS Security Management Service, those who are threatening or abusive to NHS staff could be hit with a £1,000 fine, and NHS bosses will have the power to remove individuals from the premises.
Patients and those needing treatment who behave in an anti-social manner will still be treated, but could later face fines or be subject to criminal action.
Flint said NHS staff deserved respect and not abuse, and it was time to get tough on offenders.
“We are sending a clear message to the small minority who are abusive, drunken or behave anti-socially on NHS premises that this will not be tolerated,” she said. “We aim to create a culture of respect towards NHS staff, and where needed, enforce it.”
Jim Gee, managing director of the NHS Security Management Service, said since the service was created in 2003, there has been a 15-fold increase in the number of prosecutions.
“As we see more prosecutions, and a greater awareness among staff that action is being taken, we hope NHS staff will feel more confident in reporting every incident,” he said.