In UK, Violence against Health Staff Down, Prosecutions Up, Says New Research

New research shows assaults decreased, consultation proposes examinations of nuisance and abusive behavior in hospitals


LONDON, November 1 -- Speaking at the first NHS Security Management Professionals conference today, UK Health Minister Rosie Winterton revealed a reduction in the number of NHS staff physically assaulted in England.

The statistics, collected by the NHS Security Management Service (NHS SMS), show a fall of 1,690 last year. This is a significant achievement particularly as violence and abuse showed a year-on-year increase until 2003 when the NHS SMS was set up. In addition, the number of people prosecuted for assaulting NHS staff in England also increased by 12% in the last year, from 759 to 850.

Also published today was the Department of Health response to a consultation on nuisance behavior in hospitals. The public consultation proposed a criminal office to tackle nuisance and anti-social behavior in hospitals, including fines of up to GBP1000 and the power to remove these individuals from NHS premises. Responses were overwhelmingly positive showing that the NHS and the public support measures to tackle nuisance and abusive behavior before it becomes violent.

The statistics show there were 58,695 physical assaults against NHS staff in England, 1,690 fewer than 2004-5 - and one for every 23 staff members, down from 22 last year.

The figures include:

- 1,104 assaults against ambulance staff, down 229 from last year (one assault per 29 staff members)

- 11,100 assaults against staff from acute and foundation hospitals, 342 more than last year (one assault per 67 staff members)

- 5,145 assaults against staff at primary care trusts, 47 fewer than last year (one assault per 68 staff members)

- 41,345 assaults were against mental health and learning disability staff, 1,752 fewer than last year (one assault per five staff members)

"It is totally unacceptable that NHS staff should face violence and aggression in the course of their job," said Health Minister Rosie Winterton. Thankfully, these statistics show that the tide is turning and we are finally seeing a reduction in the number of assaults.

"However this does not mean we can rest on our laurels. There are still too many attacks on staff and for this reason, following our public consultation, we are proposing to make anti-social and nuisance behavior on NHS premises a criminal offence.

"By giving the NHS the power to remove a potential threat, the offence would help reduce violent attacks on staff. This alongside an increase in prosecutions, conflict resolution training for over 250,000 staff and our close working relationship with the Association of Chief Police Officers, means we can win the war against these violent offenders."

"These statistics are the most accurate on the issue in the history of the NHS," said Richard Hampton, Head of the NHS Security Management Service. "They show that the very hard work that has been undertaken in the last three years is beginning to bear fruit, making patients and staff safer.

"Since the NHS Security Management Service was created in 2003, there have been fewer physical assaults, a sixteen-fold increase in the number of prosecutions and a greater awareness amongst staff that action is being taken. We hope NHS staff will feel more confident in reporting every incident.

"Most people respect NHS staff and would never dream of attacking them but The NHS SMS will continue to strive to create a safer and more secure environment for staff and patients."

Also released today were the official statistics on the number of incidents by individual health body. These will be available at http://www.cfsms.nhs.uk/doc/sms.general/2005-06_violence_against_NHS_staff_per1000.pdf.