MORE than a quarter of NHS workers in England have been harassed, bullied or abused by patients and members of the public, new figures show.
The NHS staff survey received responses from 569,000 people across 300 organisations.
A total of 28.5 per cent said they had been the target of abuse, with almost 15 per cent being the victims of physical violence.
Almost 40,000 respondents (7.2 per cent) reported being discriminated against by patients in the past year, up from 5.8 per cent in 2015. Racism was the most common form of discrimination, but 2019 also saw the highest levels of reported sexism and intolerance of religion and sexuality.
The new figures come as NHS leaders confirmed that from April, NHS services in England will have the right to bar from non-emergency care any patient or visitor who discriminates against or harasses staff. Previously, individual NHS organisations could only refuse services to patients if they were aggressive or violent.
Despite these issues, NHS staff responding to the survey said they are now happier and more likely to recommend their organisation as a place to work than last year.
They also reported that the quality of NHS care has improved in the past year. More than 70 per cent said they would recommend their organisation to family and friends for treatment, a proportion that has increased every year for the past five years.
More than 80 per cent said they were happy with the quality of care they give to patients, while the proportion of staff saying they were able to deliver the care they aspire to was at its highest recorded level.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: "It's welcome news that according to over half a million NHS employees, staff morale is now improving, and patient safety scores are now at a five year high.
“While teams across the country are under real pressure, NHS staff consistently go the extra mile for patients. So as a country we need to show the same commitment to them, which is why we are determined to clamp down on abuse and aggression in all its forms."
Responding to the figures, NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson said it was “a disgrace” that so many NHS staff faced abuse at work – and in particular those from an ethnic minority.
He said: “Our BME staff are the worst affected and it is getting worse, with even more of them suffering as victims of violence this year than last.” He called for a zero tolerance approach to violence against frontline staff.
BMA chief officer Dr Helena McKeown also condemned the rising levels of abuse that staff face, including those in primary care.
She added: “All staff must feel confident coming forward when they are subject to abuse or harassment, and must do so in the knowledge that something will be done. This means creating a more supportive environment that is fair and rooted in equality and respectfulness, advocating for all staff and taking decisive action when they are subject to abusive behaviours."