There has long been an acknowledgment by ministers and NHS leaders that violence against staff by patients was an issue that needed addressing, with a strategy to tackle it announced nearly five years ago.
The health service’s 2019 long-term plan included a pilot for the use of body-worn cameras by paramedics in a bid to “de-escalate” situations. The following year the Crown Prosecution Service announced an agreement with the police and NHS England to “secure swift prosecutions” of those who assault staff, and the maximum penalty for assaulting emergency workers, including doctors and nurses, was also doubled to two years.
Despite these measures, there have been internal disagreements within NHS England about the best approach to the problem, which affected almost 15% of staff last year, according to the latest national survey of the health service workforce.
The Guardian understands that senior managers in NHS England told staff in its violence prevention and reduction (VPR) team last April that prosecutions of those who assaulted healthcare workers and dismissals of abusive staff should be a last resort. Instead, the focus should be on improving the culture of the NHS and staff wellbeing.
It is also understood that managers cautioned against using the term “zero tolerance” because they said it did not take into account that some people who abuse NHS staff might lack capacity, an apparent reference to mentally ill patients.
Source: The Guardian, 23 May 2023
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