Reducing violence in the NHS

Violent assaults against NHS staff are rising with around 75,000 people each year experiencing physical violence & aggression from patients, relatives or public.

No matter where you work in the NHS, UNISON is there to help.

Violence and aggression are not part of the job!

What’s the issue?

UNISON campaigns on the issue of violence and through our work at the NHS Social Partnership Forum a new Violence Prevention and Reduction Standard is available. The standard aims to deliver a risk-based framework that supports NHS staff to work in a safe and secure environment, safeguarding against abuse, aggression and violence. An NHS violence prevention and reduction standard: guidance note is also available and designed to be used in conjunction with the NHS violence prevention and reduction standard.

This supports a promise from the NHS People Plan, launched in July 2020, for leaders to prevent and control violence so that “staff should never be fearful or apprehensive about coming to work”.

No matter where people work violence and aggression are real issues, which come in many forms including physical and verbal assaults. Incidents leave people with physical and psychological injuries, leading to time off, isolation from the workplace, loss of confidence, people quitting their jobs, PTSD and other significant long-term psychiatric conditions.

How is UNISON involved?

Through the NHS Staff Survey and research that UNISON undertook with the Health Service Journal we know that violent assaults against NHS staff are still increasing at an alarming rate, and that some occupations come with a higher rate of assaults.

The Violence prevention and reduction standard provides an agreed framework under which UNISON Branches and UNISON Health and Safety reps have a role in partnership in making workplaces safer for staff and patients. For more information see our Violence Reduction Guidance in the resource section below. 

What does UNISON want?

UNISON will continue to campaign on violence. This means:

  • Getting accurate data on the levels of violence NHS staff face, to show national, regional and local trends – so that we can promote areas of good practice and improve areas of poor practice
  • Ensuring managers are trained and understand their responsibilities to work in partnership with health and safety reps to do risk assessments and put in place the right protections for staff
  • Ensuring staff are trained and supported to deal with challenging situations – including de-escalation and restraint (anyone expected to undertake this as part of their role must receive adequate training to do this safely for themselves and for patients)
  • Ensuring staff get quality physical and psychological support if they are assaulted at work.
  • Ensuring the courts to use the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 to prosecute offenders who assault staff.

What can I do?

If you are interested in safety then could become a UNISON Health and Safety Rep. You could get training and paid time off to take on this role. Speak to your local UNISON branch. Get printed copies of this workplace poster.

You can also download social media graphics from our Resource Library to use on your branch social media channels.