Hospital patients who are persistently violent or abusive towards staff could have their right to treatment withdrawn under new policy guidelines to be introduced later this year.

The "zero tolerance" policy, due to be announced today by the Health Secretary, Alan Milburn, will include a yellow and red card system which could see patients denied treatment as "a last resort", a Department of Health spokeswoman said. The move follows an increase in violence or abuse suffered by frontline NHS staff, with 65,000 incidents last year.

Mr Milburn will say: "Violence and abusive behaviour should not be tolerated in the NHS, whether committed by patients or their relatives ... The NHS has a duty to protect frontline staff."

Other safety measures to be introduced in all hospitals include self-defence training for staff and the installation of cameras and panic buttons.