Concern over rise of assaults on NHS staff in London

NHS staff in the capital have endured almost 1,000 violent offences since the start of April 2022, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

credit Nicolas J Leclercq via Unsplash
credit Nicolas J Leclercq via Unsplash

Violence against doctors, nurses and other hospital workers appears to be rising in London, new data suggests.

Met Police figures show that staff in the capital’s hospitals have endured almost 1,000 violent offences since the start of April 2022.

While 578 such offences took place between April 2022 and March 2023, the frequency appears to have increased in the months since April 2023, with 406 offences recorded in the eight months up to the end of November this year.

The figures do not include violence against security guards, but do include cleaners, porters and receptionists.

The highest number of offences in the first year of the data was committed in Lambeth, where 59 incidents were reported. The borough is home to St Thomas’ Hospital in Waterloo and King’s College Hospital in Camberwell.

Since April this year, the highest number of offences so far, 35, have been committed in Redbridge. Among other medical facilities, the borough includes the King George Hospital in Goodmayes.

A small number of offences included in the data do not necessarily include physical violence, such as sending letters or other written communications “with intent to cause distress or anxiety”.

The most frequent offence recorded was common assault and battery, comprising 234 of the 984 incidents recorded since April 2022 (24%).

The statistics were requested by Dr Onkar Sahota, a Labour member of the London Assembly. He said: “These figures are very worrying, and even more so when you consider that these are only the crimes that have been reported – the true figures across London are likely to be higher.

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“Patients should realise that staff are doing the best they can, often under very difficult circumstances, and there’s no justification for violence.”

Dr Sahota, who represents Ealing and Hillingdon at City Hall, added: “NHS staff are motivated to help people, but they cannot be expected to do this at the expense of their safety and wellbeing.

“I am worried that this level of violence, along with the known issues of overwork and underpay, is driving even more staff to leave medicine. More than 1 in 10 positions in London are unfilled, meaning current staff are plugging the gaps as best they can.”

The Observer revealed in July that a record 170,000 workers left their jobs in the NHS in England last year, including more than 41,000 nurses.

The number of NHS staff who in 2022 quit their roles citing work-life balance stood at 27,546 (including staff who may have moved to another job in the health service), which was more than those who left because they had reached retirement age (24,143).

Dr Sahota said: “We all suffer if NHS staff become so unhappy at work that they leave.

“I urge the government to sit down with unions representing medical staff so they can introduce the right protections at work, along with proper pay and an end to the endless overtime that is being used to plug the gaps in the NHS.

“I also would like the Met to do more outreach to staff to encourage reporting so we can see the true scale of the problems.”

The Department for Health and the Met Police were approached for comment.

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