Recent figures have shown violence against NHS staff has reached its highest level in five years. Last year, an astonishing one in seven health professionals were attacked in the course of their work.

However, action is being taken.  In this regard, new measures to provide protection to NHS staff will be introduced by the government with the aim of reducing the thousands of assaults that take place each year.

At the start of this month, the Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, highlighted the concerning and rising trend in attacks, when he unveiled a new initiative to reduce assaults. This initiative will include amongst other new measures, prosecuting offenders more quickly and providing staff with improved training to handle violent situations.

The increase in violence has particularly affected ambulance workers, doctors and nurses in A&E, and mental health professionals, which has directly resulted in the passing of much needed new legislation by MPs.

Following the disbanding of NHS Protect in March 2017, there has been a lack of specialist protection for NHS. This body used to support and advise hospitals in England on staff safety. However, since then, the onus has instead been upon individual NHS trusts to safeguard their workers.  Such safeguarding has proved to be inadequate.

Mr Hancock said “NHS staff dedicate their lives to protecting and caring for us in our times of greatest need and for any one of them to be subject to aggression or violence is completely unacceptable.

“I have made it my personal mission to ensure NHS staff feel safe and secure at work and the new violence reduction strategy will be a key strand of that”.

In his speech to the Royal College of Nursing, Mr Hancock announced that there would be an NHS violence reduction strategy aimed at wiping out attacks on NHS staff.

He explained how the new strategy will work:

  1. The NHS will adopt a tough new “zero tolerance” approach to violence against its staff.
  2. The NHS, Crown Prosecution Service and Police will establish a new partnership with the aim of prosecuting violent offenders more quickly.
  3. NHS trusts will be scrutinised on the robustness and quality of their plans to reduce violence against staff as part of inspections by the Care Quality Commission.
  4. Improved training will be provided for NHS staff to handle violent situations, which will include challenging circumstances involving patients with mental health issues or dementia.
  5. There will be a new system implemented to enable staff to record assaults more easily.
  6. NHS England will examine national data to assess which of its staff are the most vulnerable to violence and what more needs to be done.

Finally, Mr Hancock added that “We will not shy away from the issue. We want to empower staff and give them greater confidence to report violence, knowing that they will see meaningful action from trusts and a consistent prosecution approach from the judicial system”.

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Catherine Reynolds
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