MORE THAN 1.2 million violent assaults and threats take place in the workplace in England and Wales every year, according to new government research.

MORE THAN 1.2 million violent assaults and threats take place in the workplace in England and Wales every year, according to new government research.

The cost of the violence in days lost and medical expenses is an estimated £62m with about 650,000 victims every year. Most attacks take place against social workers, probation officers, bar staff, police, and security guards. Also at risk are nurses, doctors, taxi drivers, youth workers, shop managers and local government staff.

In response to the growing violence against staff working in the NHS the government yesterday announced it is to set up a "zero tolerance campaign". There are around 65,000 acts of violence against nurses, doctors and other health professionals each year.

The Home Office report, Violence at Work: Findings from the British Crime Survey, published yesterday, estimated that in 1997 there were 523,000 physical assaults and 703,000 threats by members of the public against workers.

The study, funded by the Health and Safety Executive, found a third of the attacks were made by people who were drunk and about 17 per cent were under the influence of drugs. A sixth of physical assaults at work were by offenders under the age of 16, most involving attacks by pupils on teachers and welfare workers.

In a separate study each of 364 NHS Trusts surveyed reported nearly 13 violent incidents a month. The majority of which, 64 per cent, were against nursing staff. Health professionals who work in the community and with patients with mental health or learning difficulties were most at risk.

Health minister, John Denham said: "It is unacceptable that caring NHS staff can be rewarded with violence."

Last month, 500 battery-powered safety devices, which are similar to rape alarms, were given to staff in two leading Birmingham hospitals.

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