Violence against staff in the NHS

Violent assaults against NHS staff are rising. UNISON campaigns to make sure you are safe at work.

What’s the issue?

UNISON recently undertook research with the Health Service Journal which showed an almost 10% increase in violent assaults against NHS staff between 2015/16 and 2016/17 in England, with a shocking 21% jump in the acute sector.

Staff and patient safety needs to be paramount in the NHS and it can never be acceptable for staff to feel that regular assaults are simply ‘part of the job’.

The government got rid of NHS Protect – the organisation responsible for staff safety – in 2017. The body that replaced it – the NHS Counter Fraud Authority – concentrates solely on tackling fraud, so there is now no central government body collating data on violent assaults against staff or  that is responsible for staff safety in England.

At a time when violence against staff is on the rise, this decision by the government is potentially dangerous and could put staff at greater risk.

The reasons violence against staff is on the increase are many and varied, but our research with the HSJ discovered that NHS trusts struggling to meet their performance targets were likely to have much higher increases in violence against staff. And NHS trusts struggling with huge financial deficits also witnessed a big rise in the number of reported attacks on staff.

What does UNISON want?

It’s no accident that in trusts where pressure seems most extreme – where there are huge financial deficits or serious struggles to meet waiting time targets – there have been the steepest rise in the number of attacks.

Staff shortages, increased workloads and longer waiting times can all lead to growing frustration and more potentially volatile situations.

The government must make staff safety a priority and make sure that there is an organisation that has the remit for staff safety nationally. This must include the collection of data on assaults so that NHS organisations can compare their figures with others.

UNISON continues to fight for fair funding for the NHS to ensure that staff can do their jobs safely and that patient care does not suffer.

Staff must continue to receive de-escalation and conflict resolution training based on national competencies.

UNISON continues to campaign for the implementation of the Assaults Against Emergency Service Workers Bill which will lead to greater prosecution of people who assault NHS staff.

We also want to ensure that anyone expected to undertake restraint as part of their role must receive adequate training to do this safely for themselves and for patients.

View UNISON’s research with the Health Service Journal