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NHS violence reduction strategy

In a first NHS violence reduction strategy, the Department of Health proposes a zero-tolerance approach against deliberate violence and aggression from patients, their families and the public against NHS staff. Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, announced the strategy in a speech to the Royal College of Nursing.

RCN National Officer Kim Sunley said: “Nursing staff understand their roles aren’t risk-free but, to many, it still seems as if the threat of physical violence is a daily reality. These measures are another way to change this for good by increasing the accountability of employers for the safety of their staff and ensuring those who wilfully assault health care workers feel the full force of the law.

“Victims of assault at work have their lives turned upside down and it affects their wellbeing, their families and their livelihood. There’s always more we can do to support them.”

National reporting of assaults on NHS staff is to be reintroduced as part of the strategy; this was stopped when NHS Protect was abolished in April 2017, and the security management side of its work frozen, as the new body the NHS Counter Fraud Authority only works against fraud.

The strategy includes:

– the NHS working with the police and Crown Prosecution Service to help victims give evidence and get prosecutions (the sort of work done by NHS Protect);
– the Care Quality Commission (CQC) scrutinising violence as part of their inspection regime and identifying trusts that need to do better;
– training for staff to deal with violence, including circumstances involving patients with dementia or mental illness; and
– prompt mental health support for staff who have been victims of violence.

The Department points to most recent NHS staff survey – a sign of shortcomings in reporting of such crime – that more than 15pc of NHS employees have experienced violence from patients, their relatives or the public in the last 12 months – the highest figure for five years.

The strategy promises to allow staff to more easily record assaults and other incidents of abuse or harassment. Trusts will be expected to ensure every incident is investigated in full and lessons used to protect staff from incidents.

The new plans follow the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act, which was recently brought into law and will see the maximum prison sentence for assaulting an emergency worker double from six months to a year.

Matt 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. 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.”

Comment

Justin Madders, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, said: “Nobody should feel unsafe at work, and it is wholly unacceptable that almost 200 assaults occur on NHS staff every day. Labour has already backed new legislation to give our brave NHS and emergency workers the protection they deserve, whereas the Government last year scrapped NHS Protect which collated crucial data on assaults on NHS staff and prosecuted offenders.

“With many NHS staff at risk from assault and feeling they cannot deliver safe patient care because of the workforce crisis created by this Government, much more needs to be done to improve working conditions. NHS staff care for us in our most vulnerable state. Their safety must be our utmost priority.”


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