The Department of Health (DoH) has played down reports that people who threaten or abuse nurses and doctors will face large fines.
It was reported last week that those who bully and harass NHS staff will face £1,000 fines under new government plans. The news was welcomed by employee representatives, who are concerned by high levels of attacks on staff.
But the DoH said that the proposals to fine perpetrators were not concrete yet.
“We are considering a number of proposals. But we haven’t put any meat on the bones yet,” a spokesman said.
The most recent research by the Healthcare Commission shows almost one in six NHS staff (14%) were physically attacked in 2004. More than a quarter (27%) said they had been bullied or harassed by patients or patients’ relatives.
Since the establishment of the NHS Security Management Service in 2003, there has been a 15-fold increase in the number of people prosecuted for attacking NHS staff. In 2004-05, there were 759 prosecutions, compared with just 51 in 2002-03.
Health service union Unison has called assaults on public workers to be treated in the same way as an assault on a police officer.