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More than 18,000 violent attacks on NHS staff last year, UNISON report reveals

By Niall Harkiss

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Thousands of NHS workers were on the receiving end of violent assaults at their work last year, a new report has revealed.

The figures, which were released in a UNISON report today, reveal that 18,389 assaults took place on NHS staff in Scotland between April 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022.

Almost 1500 of the incidents were reported by NHS Highland staff.

The public service union surveyed every health board in Scotland – both territorial and special health boards – under freedom of information as part of the their annual Violence at Work report.

17,557 of the reported incidents took place in area health boards, with 4949 of the assaults reported by Glasgow and Clyde – the highest figure reported.

An aggregate total of 832 incidents was reported by the special health boards in 2022. 306 reported assaults on Scottish Ambulance Service staff account for 37 per cent of the total.

UNISON Scotland’s head of health, Matt Mclaughlin said: “One assault on NHS staff is one too many. Over 18,000 assaults of NHS staff is simply unacceptable. And we are under no doubt that there is considerable under reporting. Working in the NHS is stressful enough without having to worry about your personal safety. NHS boards must take a zero-tolerance approach and improve the reporting system which NHS staff have little faith in.

“While NHS boards must invest in dynamic risk assessments, staff training and reporting systems, it is vital that the Scottish government tackles the staffing crisis in the NHS. They must recruit and invest in staff so they can reduce waiting times and ensure there are adequate staff to deal with difficult situations with patients.

“Staff are under huge pressure due to the staffing crisis in the NHS and they need time to report incidents. NHS staff have little trust in the current DATIX reporting system. They need to know if they report something it will be dealt with there and then and that the police will be called.”

UNISON have carried out Violence at Work surveys every year since 2006, except during the Covid outbreak years of 2020 and 2021. This is the first report to be undertaken in three years.

A total of 18 health boards were surveyed. Four areas reported no incidents or failed to report.

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