Scotland's largest health care union has accused the Scottish Executive of complacency in its efforts to protect NHS staff.
The union says staff need protection
Unison argued that not enough was being done to ensure workers' safety at a time when assaults were on the increase.
It said that doctors and nurses had been stabbed, head butted, sexually assaulted and threatened with guns this year - and that such incidents were becoming more commonplace.
However, the union said it was impossible to calculate the exact number of attacks because there was no Scotland-wide definition of physical and verbal abuse.
At a conference in Edinburgh on Thursday, Scottish health organiser Jim Devine urged Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm to take action.
Unison wants the Scottish Executive to standardise the definition, recording and follow-up of violent and potentially violent incidents.
It is calling for the creation of a staff charter which would remind the public that it is not part of an NHS worker's job to be physically or verbally abused at work.
Unison wants to see a system of yellow and red cards for people who consistently abuse staff, which could lead to persistent offenders being banned from NHS premises.
And it stressed that zero tolerance was the "only option".
Mr Devine said: "This year, while working in the Scottish NHS, nurses have been stabbed, head butted, sexually assaulted and threatened with guns.
"Against this background of increased violence against health service workers, one has to ask what the Scottish Executive's response has been.
"Sadly, the only conclusion you can reach is that it is one of complacency."
Mr Chisholm said patients had responsibilities as well as rights.
"One of their clearest responsibilities is to treat NHS staff with respect," he said.
"I repeat today and will go on repeating, as I have for the last two years, that violence against NHS staff will not be tolerated."