More than 18,000 assaults on NHS staff last year, says UNISON

Thousands of NHS workers were assaulted at their work last year. The figures are revealed in a UNISON report Violent assaults: NHS staff in Scotland launched today (Thursday).

UNISON surveyed every health board in Scotland – both territorial and special health boards – under freedom of information as part of the union’s annual violence at work report.

Headlines from the report include:

  • 18,389 assaults on NHS staff in Scotland
  • 17,557 reported incidents in area health boards and 832 in special health boards
  • 18 health boards reported figures, 4 reported no incidents or failed to report
  • 4949 assaults were reported by Glasgow and Clyde Health Board – the highest figure reported – it is the largest health board

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.”

Matt added: “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 is the biggest health union. We represent workers in local government, NHS, education, social care, police staff, utilities, and energy. UNISON is currently balloting health workers on the Scottish government’s latest pay offer.

Read full summary report Violent assaults: NHS staff in Scotland here:

Report includes local figures from health boards as reported on page 2

Key conclusions from the report:

  • NHS Boards must manage violence and aggression risks and implement control measures. They need to increase on site security, and report all incidents to police.
  • The NHS has a staffing crisis and longest waiting lists since devolution. Adequate staffing levels are vital.
  • The NHS is chronically under staffed. This is a cause of assaults against staff, it also means staff have no time to report incidents.
  • We need to reduce patient waiting and queuing times. The public have high expectations of their NHS and whilst it is not an excuse there needs to be a recognition that unreasonable waits and queues promote unreasonable behaviour.
  • To prevent further incidents it’s crucial to ask employees to report, share their experiences and lessons, and to give feedback and get support.
  • NHS boards need to set realistic targets to improve reporting, build staff trust and reduce incidents.

UNISON Contacts
Matt McLaughlin, head of health: 07904 341979
Danny Phillips, communications officer: 07717715277 / 07944 664110