NHS Protect has released figures today showing that sanctions taken against people who assault NHS staff have increased by almost a quarter on last year, despite a 19% decrease in the number of reported physical assaults.

1,397 criminal sanctions were applied following 18,060 reported physical assaults against NHS staff in England that did not involve medical factors in 2010-11, compared with 1,128 criminal sanctions applied following 22,381 assaults in 2009-10.

Richard Hampton, local support and development services manager at NHS Protect, said: “We believe it reflects both an improved culture of reporting assaults and better mechanisms that are now in place to record them.

“Rightly, staff demand that their reports of violence are followed up. Tough action is being taken to ensure that all NHS organisations work better with local police and other agencies to clamp down on anyone who is aggressive and abusive to NHS staff.”

Extra measures have recently been put in place to offer better protection to NHS staff, including a new joint working agreement with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure criminal assaults are identified and do not go unpunished. Staff have also been offered training in and allowed greater use of powers to crack down on low-level nuisance behaviour and stop it escalating into violence against staff.

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Roy Rowlands writes for National Health Executive an essential guide to health service managers offering a wide view of healthcare news, views and opinions