A worrying new poll has unveiled that over a quarter of NHS workers have been harassed, bullied or abused by patients or members of the public in the last 12 months.
The NHS staff survey for England included responses from 569,440 members of staff and found that 29% of respondents had endured being bullied, harassed or abused while at work during the previous 12 months.
One in seven members of staff said that they had been physically attacked either by a patient they were treating, a patients family or a member of the public.
This is an increase over the year before.
40% of respondents also said that they had become unwell due to work-related stress and anxiety.
In response to the survey, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has written a letter to NHS staff telling them that “being assaulted or abused is not part of the job”.
In the letter, Mr Hancock said:
“There is far too much violence against NHS staff, and too much acceptance that its part of the job.
“Far too often, I hear stories that the people you are trying to help lash out.”
“I’ve seen it for myself in A&Es, on night shifts, and on ambulances.
“I am horrified that any member of the public would abuse or physically assault a member of our NHS staff, but it happens too often.”
New rules, welcomed by NHS staff, mean that hospitals can now refuse to treat non-emergency patients who show signs of being aggressive towards NHS staff.
The rules also stretch to visitors who become abusive or aggressive towards hospital staff.
In a worrying trend, the survey also found that ambulance crews were worst affected by the alarming increase in violent and abusive behaviour towards NHS staff.
Staff working for learning disability and mental health trusts were also amongst the worst affected.
Mr Hancock has said that the NHS has ‘joined forces’ with the Crown Prosecution Service and the police to work on a joint agreement concerning how to deal with the individuals who assault or abuse NHS staff.
“This will ensure that those who act violently and with criminal intent towards NHS staff are swiftly brought to justice.
“The joint agreement provides a framework to ensure effective investigation and prosecution of cases where staff are the victim of a crime and sets out the standards victims of these crimes can expect.
“All assault and hate crimes against NHS staff must be investigated with care, compassion, diligence and commitment.
“I ask that you, please ensure that you report every incident and act of abuse or violence against you or a colleague. No act of violence or abuse is minor.”
Commenting on the latest NHS Staff Survey published on Tuesday, UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said:
“Violence and harassment have become the new normal for NHS staff, which is beyond unacceptable.
“Staff are overwhelmed and working in overcrowded departments, creating an unhealthy environment where these problems flourish.
“No wonder more than two-fifths of staff feel unwell as a result of work stress.
“Matt Hancock’s tough talk is welcome, but it comes many months after he promised to tackle violence. These figures show there’s been no noticeable change.
“Morale shows little sign of improvement, which will do nothing to encourage despondent nurses and other health employees to stay in the NHS.
“The NHS urgently needs more staff and a properly funded people plan to help solve its problems.”
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