Since scrapping the NHS Protect body, ministers have finally confirmed their intentions to rely on an annual survey that NHS workers completed on an optional basis.
This is a drastic change for the workers who feel their feedback will get lost in translation throughout the year.
Kim Sunley, RCN Senior Employment Relations Advisor said, “This creates a dangerous blind spot for ministers hoping to tackle the increasing number of assaults in the NHS…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 disbanded 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.
A RCN survey found that more than half of its members had experienced physical or verbal abuse from patients and a further 63% from patient’s relatives or other members of the public.
Kim added, “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.”
Considering this, news comes as a Private Members Bill is being discussed by MP’s as a strategy 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.”
It is left to be seen how the annual report will stand up despite the rolling data.