Hospital bosses have underlined their “zero tolerance” stance on staff being mistreated – after new figures show more than a quarter have suffered at the hands of patients.
New figures show that show that 28% of workers at the City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Trust said they had experienced bullying, harassment or abuse from patients, relatives or other members of the public in 2017.
One in six of the1,920 employees who responded to the survey said that they had experienced physical violence.
Steve Jamieson, director of estates and facilities at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust which partners City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust in the South Tyneside and Sunderland Healthcare Group, said: “All NHS staff should be able to come to work without fear of violence, abuse or harassment, however, unfortunately, a minority of people do sometimes act in a violent and abusive manner towards them.
“This is simply not acceptable and we take a zero tolerance approach and, where appropriate, always seek to prosecute in such circumstances.
“The safety and security of all of our patients, visitors and staff s a top priority and we have security measures in place 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
“We take a very proactive approach to making sure that we meet the highest security standards and protect people within our care. The majority of security incidents reported are minor, but we do have robust security procedures in place to ensure that any incident can be dealt with quickly and safely and by working closely with the local police, where necessary.”
Healthcare workers union Unison said that anyone threatening or abusing NHS staff “should be prosecuted”.
Head of health Sara Gorton said: “No one should be abused, threatened or attacked at work - especially when all they’re trying to do is help people.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has introduced the first NHS Violence Reduction Strategy, a series of measures designed to safeguard NHS workers against deliberate attacks and abuse.
Mr Hancock said it was “unacceptable” health workers had been subjected to violence and aggression.
He said that staff will also be provided with better training to deal with violent situations, and mental health support will be made available for victims of assault and abuse.
He said: “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.”
The plans follow the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act earlier this year, which doubled the maximum prison sentence for assaulting an emergency worker from six months to a year.
Dr Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, welcomed the new measures.
He said: “Patients and their families coming into emergency departments are often experiencing the worst day of their lives; worried, confused and often frustrated.
“This can be understandable. What is unacceptable though is when this spills over into violence.”
“Staff always seek to give the best care possible in a hugely pressurised environment - it is always wrong to lash out at those trying to help.”