Research has revealed that an average of two National Health Service staff are violently or verbally attacked in Scotland every hour of the day.
Nursing staff are in the front line of the NHS
Almost one in 10 hospital, ambulance and health centre workers were subjected to abuse last year.
Nurses and midwives are experiencing the greatest number of violent attacks.
The statistics have been detailed in the NHS Scotland Occupational Health and Safety survey, the first of its kind in the UK.
Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm said the Scottish Executive was striving to curb the rising trend of such "totally unacceptable" behaviour.
He said: "Frontline staff are the health service's biggest asset and employers must
ensure that their needs are met.
"This survey will help them plan effectively in this very important area. Worryingly, the number of occupational injuries has increased.
"What this shows is that nearly one in 10 staff suffer verbal or physical attacks in the course of a year.
"If this was projected throughout Scotland, it would mean around two health
service workers are abused every hour of the day and that's totally
About 150 occupational injuries were sustained per 1,000 staff in 2002/03, a
rise of 14.9% on 2000/01, with almost 60% resulting from violence and
Injuries caused by needles or other sharp objects accounted for 11% of
incidents in the latest year.
Nurse Pauline Dunnery spoke out after she was attacked while working
Mr Chisholm said the executive had made it "crystal clear that violence
and abuse of NHS staff will not be tolerated in a modern Scotland".
He said the Emergency Workers Bill introduced in March made it an offence to assault, obstruct or hinder an emergency services worker.
Jim Devine, Unison's Scottish organiser for health, said: "I welcome the initiatives
by the executive, but clearly there is more that needs to be done.
"It is a positive step in reminding the people of Scotland that it is not the
part of an NHS worker's job to be physically or verbally abused at work."
The overall time lost due to sickness absence in NHS Scotland was 4.64% in
2002/03, down from 5.24% in 2001/02 and 4.81% in 2000/01.
Meanwhile, the employment of about 550 NHS Scotland staff was terminated last
year due to health grounds - the equivalent of 4.36 per thousand available
staff, a decrease of 1.89 per 1,000 on 2000/01.