In a parliamentary question response, ministers admitted that for the first time the Government will rely on an annual survey that NHS workers complete on an optional basis.
“This creates a dangerous blind spot for ministers hoping to tackle the increasing number of assaults in the NHS,” said Kim Sunley, RCN Senior Employment Relations Advisor. “It is totally inadequate to rely on optional surveys, especially if the law is being tightened.”
NHS Protect, the body that used to collect the data, was scrapped in April of this year. Its final figures showed a 4% rise in physical assaults against health care workers in England from 67,864 in 2014/15 to 70,555 in 2015/16.
Last year, a survey of RCN members found more than half had experienced physical or verbal abuse from patients and a further 63% from patients’ relatives or other members of the public.
“Before it was disbanded, NHS Protect warned ministers the level of assaults was rising. It should not have been removed and the Government must take their role more seriously,” Kim added.
The news comes as a Private Member’s Bill is being discussed by MPs today to strengthen the law against people who assault emergency workers.
Kim said: “This bill represents a vital step towards achieving that, but without the ability to fully monitor the figures, it will be difficult to quantify the scale of the problem, or the effectiveness of any new law.”