Violence Against NHS Staff – Do the Figures Tell the Whole Story?

Is 59,744* a large number of physical assaults considering the close proximity in which NHS staff are required to work in order to care for and support patients?

The NHS Protect Violence Against NHS Staff figures for 2011/2012 reveal an overall increase of 1,914 assaults on the previous year.

However, things may not be a bleak as the figures lead us to believe. The definition of physical assault applied by NHS Protect is ‘some form of physical contact’, therefore the recorded incidents cover a huge range and will not only include incidents that result in injury or harm.

The increase in numbers could mean an increase in reporting, which is a positive step in managing violent incidents and examining trends so that steps to control and prevent incidents can be put into place.

Des Green, security management specialist, believes that to further improve the usefulness of the figures a measure of severity of incident should also be included. Using the RIDDOR reportable rules for staff that were absent from work for at least 7 days would enable comparison to be made between the number of severe incidents and others.

The other category of incidents not recorded are those that involved aggression but did not result in any physical contact – such as threats to staff or harassment – which can be distressing for staff and do fall under the RIDDOR reportable umbrella.

As we know,  care must be taken when using statistical information as a basis to form policy but there is no doubt that the collation and publishing of these figures provides an extremely useful picture of what is happening in the NHS in relation to violence and aggression against staff. However, to move forward and be able to more accurately identify trends and match training needs more closely to the real threats staff face, it would be useful to differentiate between incidents that occurred as a result of staff responding to challenging behaviour and those handling violence and aggression. Further breakdowns to determine the proportions of incidents attributed to Dementia, confused toxic state, Diabetic reaction e.t.c would also prove valuable to more effectively identify most common triggers to violence.

What the figures do evidence is that violence against NHS Staff does occur frequently, the number of incidents, or the reporting of these incidents is increasing and mental health remains one of the bigger challenges to address.

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* From a total of 1,175,376 staff

 

 

Posted by Maybo on December 5, 2012

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