Is violence and aggression towards NHS and frontline staff getting worse?

  • Two nurses speak to ITV's Tonight about being assaulted by the same patient

It is hard to imagine why anyone would want to physically harm a doctor or nurse trying to come to their aid. Yet the sad reality is that violence and aggression towards NHS staff is a disturbing and growing issue across England and Wales.

According to recent figures, violence and aggression towards hospital workers in England has risen by 15% in the last two years, with 63 physical assaults occurring on average every day.

ITV's Tonight programme on Thursday explores the upsetting nature of violence and aggression on the NHS frontline. We hear from health workers including a doctor punched in the face by a patient in Portsmouth and a nurse put in a headlock in North Wales, who say aggression is an everyday hazard of the job.

Whilst most of the one million patients treated by NHS staff every 36 hours respect and value the service, there is a small proportion of patients who attack staff. In some cases, it has even led to staff quitting their jobs.

We met a paramedic who was assaulted whilst trying to perform CPR on a patient in cardiac arrest. She said the experience traumatised her and she would later leave her job.

Some critics say part of the problem with the growing risk of violence and aggression faced by staff is the lack of a sufficient reporting system. A survey undertaken by Tonight with the Unite union found that 75% of staff were unsatisfied with how their reports of physical and verbal abuse were handled by their trust.

We took this issue to Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

Recently, measures have been put in place to attempt to tackle the issue. Last year the Emergency Workers Act doubled the sentences of those assaulting emergency staff and in October, Matt Hancock and the Department of Health pledged to deliver a new Violence Reduction Strategy.

  • If you would like to read more about dealing with violence and aggression in the workplace in the NHS, there is more information on the NHS Employers website.

  • NHS: Violence on the Frontline - Tonight is broadcast on ITV at 7.30pm on Thursday 2nd May