In April, Unison published figures demonstrating that violent assaults had risen by 10% compared to those in 2015/2016. Considering this increase in a year alone, it’s not surprising that violence against NHS staff has reached its highest level in five years.
Unison also reported that there was a 21% increase of violence against staff working in hospital A&E departments. It appears that a prominent cause of staff mistreatment within the NHS is individuals lashing out in frustration over long waiting times. Although the increasing strain on NHS resources makes it near impossible to reduce delays, it’s inexcusable to assault those doing their best to care for you. To protect staff working in these high-risk units, security should be increased, especially at weekends when patients are more likely to be intoxicated as their impaired state may lead to a higher threat of violence.
Although I believe it’s unethical to completely deny treatment to violent patients, more needs to be done to safeguard staff and to prevent violent assaults. NHS Protect was a scheme that provided some support and advice regarding staff safety, but it was removed in 2017. Therefore, safeguarding workers became the responsibility of individual trusts within the NHS. A key preventative measure would be to reinstate this specialist scheme in order to ensure that staff safety is never overshadowed by other issues or pressures within the health service.[pullquote]It's inexcusable to assault those doing their best to care for you[/pullquote]
In addition, there should be a public campaign to remind people that the staff being neglected are the heart and soul of the NHS and so if people are deterred from either entering the job or from retaining their role, the entire system would collapse. Those acting violently need to reconsider just how much they are taking staff for granted and need to think about how they would feel if they were assaulted at work, just because they were unable to give someone an answer they wanted to hear.
Although the government are starting to take action by increasing the sentence for those abusing staff to one-year prison time, I do believe more can and should be done. Violence should not and will not be tolerated, especially when staff are doing all they can under a tremendous amount of pressure.