One in four NHS staff ‘bullied, harassed or abused’

Survey finds also 40% have felt unwell due to stress at work

NHS staff
(Image credit: (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images))

More than one-quarter of NHS workers have been bullied, harassed or abused in the past year by patients and members of the public, according to an NHS staff survey.

The research, which included responses from 569,440 staff, found 29% had experienced at least one incident of bullying, harassment or abuse in the past 12 months.

It also found that about one in seven (15%) have been physically attacked, up on the year before. A further four in 10 have felt unwell due to work-related stress.

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The Independent says black and minority ethnic staff are now 14% more likely to experience violence from members of the public or patients.

Sky News adds that the poll found staff at ambulance, mental health and learning disability trusts were worst affected by abuse and violence.

A new reform of rules means hospitals can now refuse, in non-emergency cases, to treat patients or visitors who are aggressive or discriminatory.

Sir Simon Stevens, the NHS chief executive, said: “We are determined to clamp down on abuse and aggression in all its forms.”

Sue Covill, director of development and employment at NHS Employers, told the Health Service Journal that “too many staff report facing violence, bullying and harassment”.

The health secretary has written to all NHS staff, telling them “being assaulted or abused is not part of the job”.

Matt Hancock’s letter said: “There is far too much violence against NHS staff, and too much acceptance that it’s part of the job. Far too often I hear stories that the people you are trying to help lash out.”

“I am horrified that any member of the public would abuse or physically assault a member of our NHS staff but it happens too often.”

However, Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea gave the health secretary’s words short shrift. “Matt Hancock’s tough talk is welcome, but it comes many months after he promised to tackle violence,” she said. “These figures show there’s been no noticeable change.”

A survey in 2018 found that nearly 40% of NHS staff had been sick with stress, with one in three workers witnessing “potentially harmful errors”.

A separate survey from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman found that one in five mental health patients do not feel safe in NHS care.

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