Squeezed hospital trusts create ‘hostile environments’ where attacks rise

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STAFF shortages across the NHS have created “hostile environments” that have led to a rise in physical assaults on health workers, a union has said.

Research for Unison revealed a near-10 per cent rise in attacks in the NHS in England last year, with a “staggering” 21 per cent increase in hospitals with an A&E department.

There were 56,435 assaults in 2016/17 compared with 51,447 the previous year in NHS trusts which responded to a Freedom of Information request submitted by health magazine HSJ on behalf of the union. Trusts treating fewer patients within 18 weeks of referral saw the biggest increase in assaults, as did those struggling with financial deficits.

The figures come two weeks after a special investigation by the Yorkshire Post, focusing on attacks on blue light workers, showed almost 2,000 attacks on medical staff in Yorkshire’s hospitals last year, and 1,629 physical and verbal attacks on Yorkshire Ambulance Service staff in 2016 and 2017. The investigation came ahead of the third reading of the Assaults on Emergency Workers Bill, due next Friday, which aims to introduce harsher punishments for perpetrators.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “Across the entire NHS, staff shortages are harming patient care and helping to create a hostile environment where health workers are increasingly at risk of being assaulted. It’s no accident that trusts where the pressures seem the most extreme have seen the steepest rise in the number of attacks.”