NHS urged to take tougher stance against violence against staff

Employers in the NHS have been warned to up their game in tackling staff violence, bullying and abuse, after research showed little or no progress had been made over the past 12 months.

Unions representing health service managers, nurses and other workers said action was needed after the 2007 NHS staff survey revealed that 13% had experienced physical violence from patients or their relatives – the same as in 2006. Just two-thirds of those who suffered an attack reported it.

Workers in ambulance and mental health trusts endured the most attacks, with 29% of ambulance crews and 22% of mental health workers admitting to being victims of violence.

Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said the number of attacks on NHS staff remained “worryingly high”. He called on the government to make good its pledge to provide extra cash for staff training to help tackle violence, as well as towards buying safety alarms for lone workers.

“Employers, the police service and the justice system must take tough action against those who assault NHS staff, including prosecuting perpetrators,” Carter said. Unison said the level of violence was “disturbing” and urgent action needed to stem the attacks.

Patients and their relatives were responsible for attacks on 26% of health service staff – a drop of just 2% over the previous year. Bullying by managers affected 8% of staff, while 13% had been harassed by other colleagues.

Jon Restell, chief executive of union Managers in Partnership, said healthcare trusts should take the results “very seriously” as “46% of respondents did not feel their trust tackled bullying effectively.

He added: “Staff who feel bullied or ignored in decision making can not deliver high quality services.”

Alastair Henderson, acting director of NHS Employers, which represents trusts on workforce issues, admitted more needed to be done.

“Building on our recent campaign to help trusts tackle bullying, we will work with NHS trade unions to understand more clearly why some perform better than others in this area,” he said.

NHS staff survey in numbers

  • 155,922 – number of respondents
  • 13% – victims of violence at work
  • 22% – felt communication between staff and management was effective
  • 73% – take advantage of flexible working
  • 61% – received an appraisal
  • 26% – thought their employer valued their work
  • 94% – took part in some form of training

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