Attacks on NHS staff on the increase

Violent incidents against NHS staff rose by more than a fifth last year despite a major Government initiative to reduce attacks, a report said today.

NHS Trusts in the UK suffered an average of 511 violent incidents last year, compared to 419 in 1999, a survey for the journal Health Service Report found.

The incidents included physical attacks and verbal abuse on doctors, nurses and other health service staff in hospitals, GPs' surgeries and in the community.

Only one in five trust bosses said they believed they would meet the Government's 'zero tolerance' target of reducing attacks by 20 per cent by April this year.

Adam Geldman, author of the report, said: 'This is a shocking finding. There is no doubt that many front-line NHS staff continue to face a serious risk of being physically assaulted or verbally abused while serving the public.'

But the rise in attacks might be because hospitals and trusts are encouraging staff to report complaints more.

One trust said complaints about violence had quadrupled since it revised its reporting procedures.

Cash boosts from the Government have also led to extra security in hospitals, with 77 per cent of trusts now having closed-circuit television on their premises.

Three quarters have security guards and 93 per cent provide staff with information on how to deal with violent attacks.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: 'Although this is a small survey most of the findings are not a surprise.

Violence against NHS staff is taken as a very serious issue and we are determined to lower the levels.

'Many NHS employers have gone a long way down the road to meeting these targets but we know that more still needs to be done.'

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