A recent survey conducted by the Royal College of Nursing has found that around 48% of the nurses surveyed had suffered some form of abuse in the two preceding years. 1300 nurses, who work in the community, were the subject of the survey.

11% of the nurses surveyed claimed that the abuse involved physical abuse or assaults, as well as verbal abuse.

Nurse at work

Nurses are more likely to be assaulted at work

The survey also revealed that the nurses thought that their job had become much more risky over the last few years.  The nurses highlighted a lack of staff and the related increase in their caseloads as reasons as to why their job had become more dangerous.

Half of the nurses surveyed claimed to feel vulnerable at work.  Incredibly, only 22% of the nurses surveyed claimed that their managers knew where they were when they were working on their own. A manager of nurses ought to know where their staff are at all times.

Reporting assaults to management

When the nurses suffered abuse, only 63% of them reported it to their managers.  Of the nurses who reported abuse, nearly half said that no action had been taken to reduce the risk of abuse happening in the future. This explains why 37% of the nurses surveyed didn’t report the abuse to their managers because of the high probability that nothing would change.

Almost half of the nurses surveyed claimed that risk assessments were rarely or never carried out. Essentially, therefore, nurses were being put into potential dangerous situations, which are all the more dangerous when the managers do not necessarily know where the nurses were at all times.

Lack of information on potentially violent patients

Unbelievably, only 4% of the nurses surveyed said that they always had enough information about the patients that they were due to visit.  One of the nurses surveyed spoke about an incident when they were locked in a house by a family and, when the incident occurred, nothing was done to stop the incident from happening again.

nurse assaulted at work Lack of training and absence of PPE

Only one third of those surveyed stated that they had received any form of personal-safety training, even though they carried out lone working.  Only 13% of the nurses surveyed had access to a protection device which could raise the alarm.

We have seen, as specialist assault-at-work solicitors, that the safety devices which were introduced in or around 2009, no longer seem to be dispatched to those who need them. Budgetary restrictions are the likely cause for the failure to provide nurses with appropriate safety equipment (which may be in breach of the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992).

The Royal College of Nursing takes the view, quite correctly, that by trying to save money in the short term, by failing to train staff and by providing too few staff, as well as failing to provide staff with personal safety alarms, in the long-term due to the number of physical assaults on nurses and the high rate of stress, the costs to nursing organisations is very high. We echo the RCN’s position.

As specialist assault-at-work solicitors, who were founded to provide bespoke legal representation to those who have been subjected to violence at work, the findings of the Royal College of Nursing’s survey are of no surprise to us. In our experience of violence at work, information pertaining to potentially dangerous patients and their family members is rarely passed on to nurses.  This is due to a number of reasons, such as: no action being taken when violent incidents have taken place; violence at work becoming so commonplace that it isn’t reported; insufficient time afforded to nursing staff to provide a detailed report of a violence-at-work incident; and too little training and emphasis on violence in the workplace. 

If you have suffered an injury due to being assaulted at work, please arrange a free, confidential and no-obligation with a specialist assaulted at work solicitor or legal executive. With our head office in Harrogate, and with virtual offices in York, Manchester and London, we endeavour to meet our clients wherever possible.

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Catherine Reynolds
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