Unions have demanded NHS HR teams drastically improve employee protection after labelling a rise in staff-on-staff violence “just the tip of the iceberg”.
The NHS staff survey of 160,000 workers revealed more than 2% said they had experienced physical violence from other employees, an increase from 1% last year. This is despite nearly one-third of staff taking training to prevent violence and aggression in the past 12 months.
Karen Jennings, head of health for public sector union Unison, said many incidents of violence go unreported, and called for HR and line managers to implement policies to further protect employees.
“The survey revealed a small but significant increase in the number of staff-on-staff assaults, and it is up to managers to investigate any such incident, look for problem areas, patterns or times, and take steps to ensure that they are dealt with quickly and are not repeated,” she said.
“Although there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, employers have a legal duty of care towards their employees, and listening to and acting on staff concerns alongside good occupational health would be a start.”
She added that failure to deal with statistics which showed that one in five staff was bullied by colleagues or managers – similar to previous years – could lead to further problems.
Clare Chapman, director general of workforce for the Department of Health, said she was proud of the survey results, but admitted there was still work to be done.
“What needs 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.
“Last year, the focus was on bullying and harassment, and there was improvement in that area, so that gives us confidence that when the service puts its mind to something, it gets improvements,” Chapman added.