NHS staff face

NHS staff face "routine assault and intimidation"

05/09/2019

The Guardian has reported that violence against NHS staff is a significant problem, with the latest available annual NHS staff survey revealing that 14.5% of staff said they had experienced physical violence from patients, their relatives or the public. But the trade union, Unison, believes many incidents are going unreported. Its research with the Health Service Journal, based on freedom of information requests from all NHS trusts in England in 2016-17, found physical assaults on NHS hospital staff had risen 9.7% since 2015-16. The figures suggested that, on average, there were just over 200 reported violent attacks on NHS workers every day.

 “Staff should never have to accept that violence is part of their job,” says Helga Pile, Unison’s deputy head of health. “Staffing shortages are helping create a hostile environment across the NHS where health workers routinely face patient anger, frustration and sometimes violence. Without significant investment in the NHS, the situation will only get more dangerous.”

Her fears are echoed by Simon Walsh, consultants’ committee emergency care lead for the British Medical Association. “We’ve created a cauldron where there are patients who need to be admitted and more coming in through the front door,” he says. “Peak times tend to be in the evenings, which is when patients under the influence of drugs and alcohol attend. That combination seems to result in people losing their patience and tempers.”

The government is aware of the problem. In October, it introduced the NHS violence reduction strategy, which set out to clarify organisational responsibilities, improve training and development of staff in dealing with violence and abuse, and raise the profile of the issue through publicity campaigns and updated agreements with the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The maximum sentence for violence against emergency services staff was doubled from six months to one year.

But Pile says the dangers staff face have not abated. “[Unison’s] evidence shows an increase in assaults and bears no relation to government claims that violent attacks are down.”

Calla body cameras have been shown to reduce aggression and violence in the NHS,and are being adopted by a growing number of Trusts across the country. Northamptonshire Healtjhcare NHS Foundation Trust wanted to identify whether body cameras can be used by nurses and published a study paper demonstraitng the feasibility and benefits of using body cameras in an inpatient mental health setting. 

 Dr. Alex O’Neill-Kerr – Clinical Medical Director, Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said “Improving patient and staff safety, coupled with improving the quality of care afforded are key priorities for us and we are always striving to find innovative ways to achieve those objectives. As this study has proven, body worn cameras could play an integral role in accomplishing those goals.”

Learn more about how Calla body cameras are making a difference to the NHS 

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