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Rise in attacks on NHS workers blamed on lack of staff and delays

Hospital trusts in England reported 56,500 assaults in 2016-2017, up 10% on year before

Source: The Guardian Online 17/04/17

Growing numbers of NHS personnel in England have been the victim of a violent attack at work, with understaffing and delays in patients accessing services being blamed for the rise.

Figures supplied by hospital trusts have shown that they recorded 56,435 physical assaults on staff in 2016-17, up 9.7% on the 51,447 recorded the year before.

The data, from 181 of the NHS’s 244 hospital trusts, was obtained by the Health Service Journal on behalf of the union Unison under the Freedom of Information Act.

Nurses, paramedics and mental health staff are among those most likely to be assaulted.

Acute hospital trusts have seen the biggest increase in attacks. There were 18,720 assaults on their staff during 2016-17, 21% more than the 15,469 the previous year. Unison said the jump was staggering and was linked to NHS pressures and growing waits for urgent and emergency care.

The figures appear to show that trusts with the worst performance in terms of key NHS-wide treatment targets are more likely to see their personnel being attacked.

Hospitals should treat and then admit, transfer or discharge 95% of A&E patients within four hours, provide non-urgent care to 92% of patients within 18 weeks and meet strict financial targets. But short staffing, tight budgets and rising demand mean that many cannot meet all targets.

At trusts that treated 90% or less of patients waiting for planned care, under the referral to treatment 18-week care pathway, assaults on staff went up by an average of 36.2% from a total of 5,125 in 2015-16 to 6,982 in 2016-17, far more than the general 9.7% increase.

Likewise, hospitals with large deficits have also seen notable increases. At those which were more than £20m in the red, assaults rose from 4,152 in 2015-16 to 5,113 in 2016-17 – a 23.1% increase. In contrast, trusts which were in the black had a 1.5% rise.

Unison said if the figures were extrapolated to include the 63 trusts that did not respond to a request for figures, the true total of assaults every year would be about 75,0000, or 200 a day.

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Article Published 17.4.2018