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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 August 2006, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
Get tough drive on NHS violence
Assaults against NHS staff are widespread
The police and NHS security services have united to launch a hardline approach to people who violently assault health service staff.

A joint agreement commits police and the NHS to investigate every reported incident of violence and abuse.

Both parties will "put pressure" on the courts and the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure offenders receive tougher sentences.

And a caution will only be considered after discussions with the victim.

Violence against our staff will not be tolerated
Jim Gee

The agreement has been signed by the NHS Security Management Service (NHS SMS) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

Figures released in June showed that 60,385 NHS staff were physically assaulted by patients and relatives last year - one assault for every 22 NHS staff.

An NHS SMS poll of 1,890 people found 22% of the public think those who are violent towards NHS staff should receive tough penalties.

More than four in 10 (45%) thought they should be jailed, and 21% said they should be refused treatment.

Jim Gee, managing director of NHS SMS, said: "With the promise of more prosecutions and tougher sentences, NHS staff should be able to look forward to the day when assaults are an increasingly rare occurrence.

"Although we have seen a 15-fold increase in the number of prosecutions for attacks on staff, history tells us that the courts have been too lenient on these crimes.

"Violence against our staff will not be tolerated. We will do everything within our power to ensure offenders are punished."

Violence 'unacceptable'

Terence Grange, ACPO lead for violent crime and chief constable of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: "Any violent behaviour is unacceptable, and tackling all forms of violent crime is a key priority for the police service.

"It is totally unacceptable that doctors and nurses are subject to such aggression, whilst trying to do their job of treating patients.

"The police, working with NHS colleagues, will be vigorous and offenders investigated and prosecuted accordingly."

St James' Hospital in Leeds is introducing police onto its wards to protect its staff from physical and verbal abuse.

Inspector Graham Archer of West Yorkshire Police said: "We will support nursing staff and the staff at the acute trust to make a clear statement that if you engage in that sort of behaviour and you abuse staff, there will be a consequence."

Health Minister Rosie Winterton said: "It is totally wrong that so many of our hard-working doctors and nurses are subject to violence and verbal abuse whilst trying to treat patients.

"With one in 22 NHS staff members the victims of abuse, it is crucial that we work with the police to crack down on all forms of unacceptable behaviour."

Sheelagh Brewer, of the Royal College of Nursing, said the agreement was a step in the right direction.

However, she said the real test would be how it translated into action on the ground.

She said: "Violence should never be tolerated in the workplace. The RCN will continue to lobby for better prevention measures, tougher sentences for offenders and more support for the victims."

See cctv images of drunken behaviour in an A&E

Clampdown on abuse of NHS staff
10 Jun 06 |  Health
Attacks on nurses 'on the rise'
28 Feb 06 |  Health
Parties' pledge on NHS violence
25 Apr 05 |  Election 2005

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