Rise in assaults against NHS England staff

THE number of criminal sanctions handed down following attacks on NHS staff in England has increased by almost 16 per cent, new figures show.

The total number of sanctions declared in 2012/13 was 1,458, up from 1,257 the previous year – a rise of 15.9 per cent.

The total number of assaults reported by staff across the NHS went up by 5.8 per cent, from 59,744 in 2011/12 to 63,199 in 2012/13. That gives a rate of 55 assaults per 1,000 staff members, compared to last year’s rate of 51. The annual figures have been published by NHS Protect.

The report shows the vast majority of reported assaults (49,755 or 78 per cent) involved “medical factors” where “the perpetrator did not know what they were doing, or did not know what they were doing was wrong due to medical illness, mental ill health, severe learning disability or treatment administered.”

Richard Hampton, Head of Local Support and Development Services at NHS Protect, said: “NHS staff should expect to be able to provide care in a safe environment, free from violence and physical assault. NHS Protect urges employers to take firm action in all cases of assault against NHS staff.

"We urge all NHS staff to report assault and acts of violence against them. Employers must do all they can to support staff in preventing incidents and pursuing offenders”.

The health bodies with the highest total number of assaults in 2012/13 were all within the mental health sector.

The highest number was in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust which had a total of 3,272 assaults, a rate of 538 assaults per 1,000 staff members. Of those attacks, 69 per cent (3,141) involved medical factors.

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust was next highest with 1,930 total assaults, a rate of 289 assaults per 1,000 staff members. There were medical factors involved in 96 per cent (1,853) of attacks.

Third highest was Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust on 1,780 assaults, all of which involved medical factors. They had a rate of 437 assaults per 1,000 staff members.

The Trusts with the lowest total assaults were all in the acute sector.

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool Woman’s NHS Foundation Trust, The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust and The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust all reported zero assaults in 2012/13.

Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust reported two assaults during that period (a rate of one assault per 1,000 staff), none of which involved medical factors. The Christie NHS Foundation Trust reported four assaults (two per 1,000 staff), two of which involved medical factors.

Moorfields Eye Hospital and NHS Foundation Trust reported five assaults (three per 1,000 staff), four of which involved medical factors.

In its report, NHS Protect urged caution in comparing assault figures, saying: “[T]here are many factors which may influence a health body’s published figures including a) population served b) geographical setting (i.e. rural/urban), c) level of provision of mental health, learning disability and elderly care services, d) changes in service provision, e) health body amalgamations and splits f) embedding of reporting culture.”

NHS Protect has urged NHS bodies to work with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service “to ensure criminal assaults are identified and do not go unpunished”.

They also recommend NHS bodies seek advice from NHS Protect’s network of area security management specialists (ASMSs) who can advise on assessing risks of violence, prevention of violence and on what legal action can be taken following an assault.

A new guidance document will also be launched soon by NHS Protect, called Meeting needs and reducing distress – Guidance on the prevention and management of clinically related challenging behaviour in NHS settings.