Violence against NHS staff fails to decline, staff survey reveals

The level of physical violence against NHS staff has failed to improve for the fourth year in a row despite more workers being trained to handle abuse, the latest staff survey has revealed.

More than one in ten NHS workers (12%) reported experiencing physical violence from patients or their relatives, the survey by the Healthcare Commission found. The figure is “relatively unchanged” over the past four years, despite nearly a third (28%) of staff taking training in the prevention of violence and aggression last year, up 2% from 2007, the survey by the Healthcare Commission found. 

The sixth annual survey of 160,000 NHS workers also showed a third of staff (31%) do not feel valued by their trust while a quarter (26%) said senior managers did not act on feedback.

The news comes days after the healthcare watchdog slammed “appalling” standards in leadership and management at an NHS trust, causing needless deaths.

Anna Walker, chief executive of the Healthcare Commission, said: “There are real lessons to be learnt from the NHS staff survey about leadership, management and team work. Staff feel informed, but not involved in decisions that affect their working life and don’t feel valued by their trust. Yet the survey shows that NHS staff are dedicated to their jobs and to their patients.

Just 51% of staff felt they had been communicated the overall vision of the NHS. While more staff reported incidents that could have hurt staff or patients, a third (29%) did not feel informed about changes.

Walker added it was good that staff feel able to report incidents. “But many staff say they’re not told if changes are made as a result of reports. This is a vital part of the process that trusts must carry out if they are truly serious about tackling the causes of incidents and preventing unnecessary harm to patients or staff.”

Walker urged all 390 trusts to study their results, compare themselves with similar NHS organisations and “identify opportunities to make real and lasting improvements to the working lives of their staff”.

Other survey findings:
– Nearly 2% of all staff said that they had experienced physical violence from other staff
– 23% experienced bullying, harassment and verbal abuse from patients, while 18% had experienced bullying, harassment or abuse from either their line manager or other colleagues.
– 47% said there were not enough staff to do the job properly
– 58% of those working in teams say they are not well-structured with clear objectives and that they don’t regularly review performance
– 8% of staff said they experienced some sort of discrimination at work in the previous 12 months
– 28% of staff suffered work-related stress
– 62% of staff are trained in infection control.


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