[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 10 June 2006, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK
Clampdown on abuse of NHS staff
Nurse (generic)
One in 22 NHS staff was assaulted in 2005, figures show
Anyone who abuses NHS staff could be fined 1,000 and thrown off the premises, the government has proposed.

More than 60,000 NHS staff were physically assaulted by patients and relatives of patients in 2005 - an assault for every 22 NHS staff.

Under the plans, people needing care would still be treated, but could face fines or criminal action later.

Health unions said no-one working in the NHS should face abuse or assault.

It is completely unacceptable that NHS staff have to suffer abuse at the hands of those they are trying to help
Health minister Caroline Flint

The new proposals have been developed by the NHS Security Management Service.

The most likely staff to be assaulted were those working in mental health and learning disability services, where one in every five experienced physical abuse - 43,097 incidents.

One in 23 ambulance staff and one in every 65 Primary Care Trust staff were also the victims of assault.

In acute hospitals, one in every 68 staff was assaulted.

'Good deterrent'

NHS staff have welcomed the idea of fines. Among them is Kate Hollis, a nurse who was punched in the face by a patient.

She told BBC Radio Five Live: "People don't always fit into those typical stereotypes of a young lad on a Saturday night that's drunk that comes into the department. It can be Mr Average that becomes verbally abusive.

"I think the actual fines if they do come into practice will be quite a good deterrent and obviously the general public are finding out the facts and figures now of how many people are verbally abused and assaulted. NHS staff have always known about this but now obviously it's coming to light."

Health minister, Caroline Flint said the aim was to be tough on offenders.

"It is completely unacceptable that NHS staff have to suffer abuse at the hands of those they are trying to help. NHS staff deserve respect not abuse," she said.

"That is why we are sending a clear message to the small minority who are abusive, drunken or behave anti-socially on NHS premises that this will not be tolerated.

"Under our proposals, patients and relatives who verbally abuse or threaten NHS staff could face a fine of up to 1,000. We will also give the NHS the power to physically remove offenders from the premises.

"We aim to create a culture of respect towards NHS staff, and where needed, enforce it."

'Tough stance'

Jim Gee, managing director of the NHS Security Management Service, said: "Most people respect NHS staff and would never dream of attacking them but these proposals give the NHS powers to stop those who do.

The police and Crown Prosecution Service have got to take this issue much more seriously
Janet Davies
Royal College of Nursing

A BMA spokesperson welcomed the government's "tough stance" on violence and verbal abuse against NHS staff.

"No-one working in a hospital or GP practice should have to put up with the threat of physical or verbal abuse.

"We're talking about people who go to work in order to try to alleviate pain and treat ill-health - the fact that they may expect to be punched, kicked or shouted at cannot be tolerated."

Janet Davies, executive director at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), also welcomed the new initiative.

She said: "The police and Crown Prosecution Service have got to take this issue much more seriously and take positive steps to ensure that people who attack NHS staff are prosecuted.

"I am concerned about the large differences in the level of assaults in hospital trusts.

"I think there is a real opportunity for trusts to share experiences and learn from each other about they are dealing with this issue."

Unison also said it wanted health workers to be given the same legal protection as police officers, through the introduction of a new crime - assault on a public sector worker.

A nurse describes the moment she was attacked

Attacks on nurses 'on the rise'
28 Feb 06 |  Health
British GPs 'suffer more abuse'
24 Jan 06 |  Health
Danger on the NHS front line
01 Jan 05 |  Health

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific