Violence against NHS staff from patients or relatives

The staff pledges, part of the NHS Constitution, define what the NHS expects from staff and what staff can expect from NHS employers. One of the pledges is to provide support and opportunities for staff to maintain their health, wellbeing and safety.

What do staff say about experiencing violence from patients or relatives?

Overall, the percentage of staff who said they had experienced physical violence from patients/relatives in the past 12 months was low and decreased from 11 % in 2007 to 7% in 2011. This increased to around 15% in 2012 but it is not directly comparable to the previous year, as the way in which staff could respond to the question changed, making the responses more sensitive. The percentage of staff who reported experiencing physical violence from patients/relatives in the past 12 months has continued to decrease since 2012 and is now 12%.

Staff in mental health & learning disability trusts and ambulance trusts reported experiencing violence with the same broad pattern as the national response, but at a much higher response - 2.5 times higher for ambulance trusts. This is likely to be a result of the nature of the patients that staff within these groups treat.

Does an individual's profile affect whether they experience violence?

Unsurprisingly, staff in roles that come into contact with patients more often (such as registered nurses & midwives and healthcare assistants) reported experiencing violence more than other staff groups (such as general managers) (data not shown). Staff from either sex, with or without a disability, irrespective of their ethnic background (white vs. non-white) are just as likely to experience physical violence from patients based on what they report in the survey (data not shown).

However, it appears that the younger a staff member is the more likely they are to experience physical violence from patients/relatives, based on what staff reported in the survey. This may be linked to certain staff roles (such as healthcare assistants and registered nurses) being populated by younger individuals, patients/relatives showing less restraint from violence towards younger members of staff, or younger people being more likely to report violence when asked in the survey.

About this data

For further information, please see the <a href="">"NHS Staff Survey website"</a>. 

The data are unweighted. From 2012, the question has become more sensitive to responses due to the amendment of response options. 

National averages include other organisations outside of the sectors shown in the charts, for example PCTs and CCGs.

In 2015, extra categories were created for acute trusts and mental health & learning disability trusts that are combined community trusts. Where these trusts were previously coded as either acute trusts or mental health & learning disability trusts, the analysis included them in the categories they were previously in.


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