Hospital staff and paramedics have been at the sharp end of a significant increase in violent attacks on NHS workers, latest statistics from NHS Security Management Services have indicated.
The data for 2009/10 covered every organisation in the NHS, including strategic health authorities.
It showed staff working in mental health trusts continued to be subjected to the highest levels of violence with, as of March 2010, an assault rate of 191.7 per 1,000 members of staff and a total of 412 prosecutions.
The same number of criminal sanctions was applied in acute trusts in 2009/10, where the assault rate was 16.8 per 1,000 staff. In ambulance trusts, the assault rate was 32.9 per 1,000 employees.
The data also highlighted a wide discrepancy in the number of Primary Care Trust (PCT) employees declared by the Department of Health and the trusts themselves.
The Government’s figures indicated an assault rate of 0.9 per 1,000 workers based on 369,672 employees, but PCT figures indicated a much higher rate of 14 per 1,000 employees based on 234,544 staff declared.
Either way, the figures were “an absolute disgrace”, said Unison head of health Karen Jennings.
“These statistics on violence make sad and shocking reading. Nurses, paramedics and other health workers should not have to go into work fearing that they may be at risk of attack,” she said.
“It is appalling that some members of the public see NHS staff as soft targets for assault. Unison would like to see tougher legal action against those people found guilty of assault,” she added.
However, one factor behind the increase could simply be better reporting of assaults, the union also conceded.