NHS staff-on-staff violence a relatively small story, says DoH workforce chief

Staff-on-staff violence at the NHS is a “relatively small story” that must be read in the context of wider improvements across hospitals, the NHS director general of workforce has insisted.

A staff survey of 160,000 workers, published yesterday, revealed that more than 2% of staff said they had experienced physical violence from other staff, an increase from 1% from last year. More than one in 10 NHS workers also reported experiencing physical violence from patients or their relatives, a figure that has reamained “relatively unchanged” over the past 10 years, according to the Healthcare Commission, which conducted the survey.

This is despite nearly one-third (28%) of staff taking training in the prevention of violence and aggression in 2008.

Clare Chapman, director general of workforce for the Department of Health, said: “What needs the attention now is where there is physical violence from other staff: that’s up, to 2%, but it’s a relatively small story in the context of improvements in other areas,” she told Personnel Today.

Reported levels of bullying, harassment or abuse from patients or relatives fell from 26% in 2007 to 23% in 2008.

“Last year, the focus for the social partnership forum was on bullying and harassment, and clearly there has been improvement in that area, so that gives us confidence that when the service puts its mind to something, it gets improvements,” Chapman added.

Chapman also called for further work on improving communication between managers. Just a quarter of respondents felt that their managers involved staff in important decisions, while less than a third said senior managers acted on staff feedback.

“There will always be a further need to improve communication, it must be an important area of focus,” she said. “To be valued by managers depends on being listened to, and that’s something we’ve seen a slight improvement in, and we expect it to continue.”