Violence against staff in the NHS

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

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

What’s the issue?

Through the NHS Staff Survey and research that UNISON undertook with the Health Service Journal we know that violent assaults against NHS staff are increasing at an alarming rate.

In October 2018, the government announced a Violence Reduction Strategy with financial commitments in the NHS Long Term Plan to deliver this strategy.

UNISON works in partnership through the NHS Social Partnership Forum where reducing violence against NHS staff is a priority. UNISON continues to set out our priorities for ways to reduce the levels of violence against NHS staff.

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 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?

  • We want the culture in the NHS to be clear that violence is not part of the job and staff should come to work in safe environments free from violence, aggression and bullying.
  • We want the NHS to be clear about who is responsible at a national, regional and local level to deal with violence.
  • We want proper data on the levels of violence NHS staff face and we want this data to show national, regional and local trends – so that we can promote areas of good practice and improve areas of poor practice.
  • We want employers to ensure 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.
  • We want staff to be trained and supported to deal with challenging situations – including de-escalation and anyone expected to undertake restraint as part of their role must receive adequate training to do this safely for themselves and for patients.
  • If the worst happens, we want staff to get proper physical and psychological support if they are assaulted at work.
  • We want to see law courts using the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 to prosecute offenders who assault staff.

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.

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.