Hospital bosses have underlined their “zero tolerance” stance on staff being mistreated - after new figures show one in five have suffered at the hands of patients.
New figures show that 19% of workers at the South Tyneside NHS Trust said they had experienced bullying, harassment or abuse from patients, relatives or other members of the public in 2017.
One in 10 of the 1,610 respondents said that they had experienced physical violence.
Steve Jamieson, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s director of Estates and Facilities, said: “All NHS staff should be able to come to work without fear of violence, abuse or harassment, however, unfortunately, a minority of people do sometimes act in a violent and abusive manner towards them.
“This is simply not acceptable and we take a zero tolerance approach and, where appropriate, always seek to prosecute in such circumstances.”
He added: “The safety and security of all of our patients, visitors and staff is a top priority and we have security measures in place 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at South Tyneside District Hospital.
“We take a very proactive approach to making sure that we meet the highest security standards and protect people within our care. The majority of security incidents reported are minor but we do have robust security procedures in place to ensure that any incident can be dealt with quickly and safely and by working closely with the local police, where necessary.”
Healthcare union Unison said that anyone threatening or abusing NHS staff should be prosecuted.
Head of health Sara Gorton said: “No one should be abused, threatened or attacked at work - especially when all they’re trying to do is help people.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has introduced the first NHS Violence Reduction Strategy, a series of measures designed to safeguard NHS workers against deliberate attacks and abuse.
Mr Hancock said it was “unacceptable” health workers had been subjected to violence and aggression.
The Care Quality Commission will also be scrutinising individual trusts based on their plans to reduce violence against staff and identify those that need further help to protect their employees.
Mr Hancock said staff will also be provided with better training to deal with violent situations, and mental health support will be made available for victims of assault and abuse.
He said: “I have made it my personal mission to ensure NHS staff feel safe and secure at work and the new violence reduction strategy will be a key strand of that.”
Dr Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, welcomed the new measures said: “Staff always seek to give the best care possible in a hugely pressurised environment. It is always wrong to lash out at those trying to help.”