They are the everyday heroes in our communities; from the doctor performing pioneering surgery, to the auxiliary bringing an old lady a cup of coffee, we cannot take them for granted.
I firmly believe that more action is needed to protect our healthcare staff from violence and aggression.
A survey by the Royal College of Nurses found that 56% of their members had experienced physical or verbal abuse from patients, and a further 63% from relatives of patients or members of the public. Their survey of lone working nurses also found that 10% reported being physically abused over the previous 2 years, and 60% suffered verbal abuse.
These figures correspond with reports from NHS Protect that show a 4% rise in physical assaults against healthcare workers in England from 67,864 in 2014/15 to 70,555 in 2015/16.
Whilst much of the current focus on violence in the NHS draws attention to pressures in Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments, I am also aware that physical assaults occur in a variety of environments including mental health and in the community. The risk of physical assault is even higher for staff working alone – the proportion of lone workers in the NHS sustaining an injury from a physical assault is approximately 9% higher compared to non-lone workers.
Criminal sanctions are not always appropriate and must go alongside prevention.
There are a number of preventative actions which can be taken to reduce and manage the risk of physical assaults such as training in conflict resolution, the provision of lone worker alarms and well-designed environments. However, the length of time waiting to be seen by a health professional is cited as a common factor behind assaults.
A specific offence would send out a strong deterrent message to those who wilfully assault professionals and other health care workers in the pursuit of their work. Such a law would need to be inclusive of all NHS staff working in a variety of environments.
The Tories have made it progressively harder to train and work in the NHS, despite a high demand for these professionals. Medical staff do not deserve to be abused whilst carrying out their job and I fully support any law that would protect them further.