UK legislation to protect medical staff from escalating assaults

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UK peers have called for the quick passing of new legislation to protect NHS staff from growing levels of “unacceptable” and “scandalous” assaults. People Management reports that speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Clark of Windermere, a Labour peer, cited figures from a report that suggested suggested violence against NHS staff had increase by almost 10% in the last year. “That is just unacceptable,” he added.

Meanwhile, Baroness Jolly, a Liberal Democrat peer and the political party’s Lords spokesperson for health, branded the number of attacks on NHS staff as “nothing short of scandalous”. She asked if there was government support for the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, which is scheduled for its second reading in the House of Lords on 29 June.

The report says the proposed legislation would increase the sentence for common assault and battery from six months to 12 when it is committed against an emergency worker. The legislation would also require courts to take into account that the incident involved an emergency worker when sentencing for certain other offences.

In response to the concerns raised, Lord O’Shaughnessy, parliamentary under secretary of state for health, revealed there had been 70,555 physical assaults in NHS organisations in 2015-16. He agreed the steady rise in assaults since the data started being tracked in 2008-09 was “completely unacceptable” and said the government would be supporting the legislation.

However, O’Shaughnessy also noted no data on assaults had been collected for 2016-17.

Responding to the study figures when they were released in April, Danny Mortimer, CEO of NHS Employers, said: “All NHS workers should feel able to perform their vital jobs without the fear of violence.” Mortimer added the NHS had a “zero-tolerance” approach to violence against its staff and would take legal action where necessary.

And, commenting on the House of Lords discussion, Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, added: “There can never be an excuse for attacking health workers who are trying to do their jobs. But they are increasingly at risk of being assaulted, and it’s clear that staff shortages and budget cuts are making this more likely.”

People Management report
Health Service Journal report

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