The biggest increase was in acute care, with attacks on health workers in hospitals with A&E departments up more than one fifth (21%), according to Unison – 18,720 assaults in 2016/17 in the acute trusts that responded, compared to 15,469 the previous year.
The union suggests that NHS trusts struggling to meet their performance targets were more likely to to see their staff assaulted. Trusts that treated fewer than 90% of patients within the 18-week referral period typically saw an increase in reported assaults of 36.2%.
NHS trusts with large financial deficits were likely to have witnessed a big rise in the number of reported attacks on staff, according to the Unison figures. Assaults in trusts that are more than £20m in the red were up 23.1% on the previous year. This compares to an increase of just 1.5% for NHS trusts without deficit and with surpluses in excess of £5 million.
Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “Across the entire NHS, staff shortages are harming patient care and helping to create a hostile environment where health workers are increasingly at risk of being assaulted.
“It’s no accident that trusts where the pressures seem the most extreme – where there are huge financial deficits or where it’s a struggle to meet growing demands on services – have seen the steepest rise in the number of attacks. This desperate situation is only set to worsen as the squeeze on resources gets tighter.”
The data, obtained in a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by Health Service Journal on behalf of Unison, comes from 181 of the