Call to prevent violence against health staff

The Government is being urged by the Medical Defence Union (MDU) to take concerted action to prevent and reduce violence against healthcare staff. 

Its call came as it published an article in the MDU journal informing doctors: ‘The chances are, if you are reading this article, you will be lucky if you have never experienced violence in the workplace.’

But the defence organisation said only a handful of doctors sought advice each year despite figures suggesting escalating violence and abuse experienced while in their NHS roles. 

Dr Michael Devlin

Its head of professional standards and liaison, Dr Michael Devlin, said a survey of over 400 doctors by the indemnity provider found two thirds reported increasing levels of abuse, so it was concerning that so few doctors came to the MDU for support. 

He said the NHS England Long Term Plan allocated £2m a year from 2019-20 on programmes to reduce violence, bullying and harassment of staff. 

‘There should be a bigger focus on the NHS violence reduction strategy and greater transparency on how the money allocated in the plan is actually being spent on preventive action and training for staff most at risk.’

An MDU survey of 418 doctors found that 33% of consultants and hospital doctors, and 44% of GPs, had experienced bullying, abuse or harassment from patients or relatives while at work. Six per cent of doctors had experienced physical violence.

The article includes learning points to help front-line staff reduce the risk of being caught up in a violent situation at work.