Are Hospitals Becoming More Dangerous for NHS Staff?

In one year, 15% of all NHS staff and 28% of nurses experienced physical abuse

A 2017 survey of NHS staff in England showed that 15% had experienced physical violence from patients, relatives or the public over a 12 month period. Accident and Emergency wards are amongst the most hard-hit, second only to elderly care in the number of violent incidents reported.

Nurses fared the worst, with 28% reporting to have experienced physical abuse within the past 12 months, and 70% reporting verbal abuse. In the acute and urgent areas of practice, 43% of nurses surveyed said they had experienced physical abuse.

Recent encounters with abuse was not shown to decrease job satisfaction or motivation amongst staff. However, these figures did drop in NHS staff who said that they did not feel appropriately supported during or after the incident – with response from security playing a large role.

In the same survey, only around half of nurses who had reported physical or verbal abuse said that they were satisfied with the outcome.

Violence towards NHS staff is on the rise

Troublingly, there is evidence that violence towards NHS staff is increasing while years of budgets falling short of demand has left the NHS unable to scale up its security in response to the threats that their staff face.

In the 2017 survey (the most recent survey of abuse towards NHS staff) a year-on-year increase of 9.7% was found.

NHS Protect – a body set up to record abuse towards NHS staff and provide training on how to respond to and report threats – was closed in 2017 and replaced with a body tackling fraud and financial crime. NHS staff expressed concern with what felt like a message that their personal security was less important than financial security.

Through speaking to NHS staff, I’ve heard of multiple incidents where a limited presence of security guards has meant they haven’t been able to respond quickly enough to aggressive individuals to prevent escalation, with bruises and worse becoming something that staff begrudgingly accept as a reality of the job.

Unsurprisingly, there is a strong correlation between hospitals where staff report abuse and hospitals experiencing financial deficits.

Whether through intoxication, mental illness or stress, aggression is inevitable in hospitals, but staff, patients or the public coming to harm doesn’t have to be. A well-trained and fully staffed security team is essential to keeping everyone in a hospital safe so that staff can focus on giving patients the care that they need.

Hospitals must prioritise security to keep staff safe

A robust security team can quickly respond to aggressive or out-of-control individuals before harm is caused to themselves or others. There is also an increasing requirement for security in hospitals to be able to identify and remove known harassers of NHS staff – a problem unfortunately also on the rise.

Such a team must be integrated fully with hospital operations to build rapport with staff and develop familiarity with both the site and who does and does not belong in the building. When contracting a security provider, it’s important to find one that can provide continuity of service.

Many security companies on the lower end experience a very high turnover of staff due to low pay and low job satisfaction. At Magenta Security, we have industry-leading retention, allowing us to provide security officers that stay with you for years.

For more information on the role of security services in hospitals, click here.

If you want to enquire about the security services that we provide for hospitals, including static guarding, entrance control and CCTV, call our award-winning customer services team now on 0800 772 3786.

Abbey Petkar

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