Mission: To significantly improve the safety and well being of the people we advise and train

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1st December 2013 6% Rise in Violent Assaults on Nursing Staff

Assaults on NHS continue to rise. Data from NHS Protect shows there were 63,199 assaults reported in 2012 – 2013 in England alone. This figure is up from 59,744 in 2011 – 2012. At the same time the number of sanctions taken against people who assault staff has risen from 1,257 to 1,458 (a 16% increase). The Health Minister, Dan Poulter stated that “Any physical or verbal abuse against NHS staff is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated”.  He went on to say “It is outrageous that there have been so many physical assaults against NHS staff, but better awareness among health professionals will help them feel able to speak out and stop it happening”. Unfortunately similar words from his predecessors and others in a position of power, although no doubt well intentioned, do little to reduce the year on year rise in assaults, not least because they continue to miss the point.  Those staff who are assaulted do not generally dictate the behaviour of the aggressor. The aggressor is the one who writes the script. Unfortunately this basic lack of understanding has continued to foster a very whooly and academic approach to the problem and an inadequate and disjointed approach to training. Whilst reasonable people can undoubtedly be reasoned with, these are not generally the people staff need to worry about. People who assault other people are by definition mentally impaired, either as a result of drink, illicit drugs, medication, mental illness or rage. The only way to reduce the threat posed by these people is through better design of the environment, improved processes and credible training which provides staff with the skills to deal with the problem effectively. Whilst we may never completely avoid the risk of violence there is plenty of evidence to show that with the right approach assault figures can be significantly reduced. However, this requires more than simply warm words. As one nurse recently commented “I work alone in the community at night, often making calls to people who have varying levels of drink related or mental health problems. We cannot always get a signal on the mobile and I often feel vulnerable. We have never had any training in how to deal with people who are violent or aggressive despite personally having to deal with such incidents. Myself and my team expressed our concerns to both our manager and the health and safety advisor. We didn’t get the training but we did get a yellow reflective jacket!”