Hundreds of NHS staff face being assaulted at work - but few assaults lead to criminal convictions

PUBLISHED: 07:00 13 January 2017

Frustration young female doctor sitting in her consulting room and looking at document.

Frustration young female doctor sitting in her consulting room and looking at document.

Milan Markovic

NHS staff are having to deal with the very real prospect of being attacked at work, as new statistics show hundreds of assaults take place against ambulance, hospital and mental health staff each year.

Assaults against NHS staff

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership: 1,003 assaults in 2015/16, 955 assaults in 2014/15

South Western Ambulance Service: 160 assaults in 2015/16, 130 assaults in 2014/15

Weston General Hospital: 72 assaults in 2015/16, 82 assaults in 2014/15

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) and the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) saw a rise in the number of assaults against their staff in 2015/16, compared to 2014/15.

In 2015/16, 160 assaults against SWASFT staff led to 38 criminal sanctions but just one of 1,003 assaults against AWP staff led to a prosecution.

This could be because many assaults are due to medical factors – where a person is either confused or unable to control their actions.

A spokesman from AWP said it takes all assaults ‘very seriously’ and added: “We have a positive reporting culture and processes in place to review all incidents and learn from them.

“All clinical staff are trained in conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques.

“We involve the police as required and the Crown Prosecution Service decides if a prosecution is in the public interest.”

An SWASFT spokesman said it takes a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to abuse against its staff, and added: “All reports of violence and aggression are taken very seriously.

“Every member of trust staff plays a vital role in serving the community by helping to deliver the right care in the right place at the right time and staff should be able to fulfill their life-saving role without fear of abuse or assault.”

SWASFT also has a ‘staying well’ service which provides counselling and physiotherapy for staff affected by assault.

Weston General Hospital has bucked the trend to see a reduction in the number of assaults against its staff, and the hospital says it is working closer than ever before with police.

Bronwen Bishop, the hospital’s director of strategic development, said: “We understand visiting hospital can be a stressful experience for people. However, no-one should feel threatened or intimidated while they are here. It is really important our staff feel safe.

“We are currently working with our local partners, including police, on various initiatives to ensure we are providing the safest environment for staff to do their job and for patients to be treated.

“Assaults can also occur when treating people who become confused as part of their illness, so we’re continually examining different ways we can create the right, calm environment in which those patients can be treated.”

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