Frontline hospital staff are the “punchbag” of strained NHS – nurses’ union warns


Hospital staff in Staffordshire are the “punchbag” of the NHS, a nurse’s union has claimed after new figures show assaults on frontline NHS are rocketing.

Attacks on staff at the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust have almost doubled on the previous year, according to the report.

The statistics published by safeguarding body NHS Protect reveal that in the last year, there were more than 250 reported assaults.

The region’s ambulance service has claimed that paramedics are punched, spat at and threatened with weapons.

A spokesperson from the trust which runs the Stafford County and Royal Stoke University Hospitals said: “Our staff are committed to providing health services and should not have to suffer violence at work.

“We will continue to work hard to prevent assaults from occurring and to pursue sanctions following assaults when they do occur.”

With nurses at the front line of hospital services, nurses’ union, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) today commented on the figures which also show a nationwide rise, with more than 67,000 assaults reported overall.

Janet Davies, executive director of nursing and service delivery at the RCN, said: “It should go without saying that nobody should be assaulted whilst going about their daily work.

Janet Davies, Executive Director of nursing and service delivery at the Royal College of Nursing

Janet Davies, Executive Director of nursing and service delivery at the Royal College of Nursing

“The fact that assaults against staff seem to have gone up in the acute sector may be a barometer for the enormous pressures hospitals are facing.

“With increasing waiting times, rising frustration and the chaos of understaffed and busy wards, staff are too often the punchbag for a care system on the point of being overwhelmed.”

Ms Davies said more needs to be done to protect the region’s nurses.

She said: “There may well be instances where assaults or aggressive behaviours are related to a medical condition, but there is more employers can do to prevent incidents and reduce harm.

“With security staff, training, support for lone workers, safe staffing levels and a well-designed environment for care, employers can help to mitigate the risks to staff.”

It is not just hospital staff who are reporting hundreds of assaults every year, our ambulance service staff are also facing violence at work.

According to West Midlands Ambulance Service, in the last six months, frontline ambulance staff have been punched, spat at, threatened with knives and even given death threats.

West Midlands Ambulance Service Trust chief executive Anthony Marsh said: “It is quite outrageous that our staff are having to put up with such violence.”

Figures released at the Ambulance Trust’s Board meeting show that from April to September this year, the number of physical assaults on staff shot up by almost 30 per cent to 139 incidents.

The number of verbal assaults on ambulance staff reported have also increased to nearly 250 in the same period.

But an NHS staff survey for 2014 showed that many assaults may go unreported.

Regional security manager at West Midlands Ambulance Service, Steve Elliker said: “The fact that some of our staff do not report cases of violence because they do not believe that enough action will be taken against the perpetrator is a sad reflection on how they feel.

“We need sentences to be a deterrent so that people think twice before they attack our staff.

“We want the courts to support us 100 per cent so that this dreadful situation can be changed for the better.”



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