Nurses face most violence at work

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The Independent Online
Nursing is now officially the most dangerous profession in Britain, when it comes to dealing with members of the public, writes Ian Burrell.

New research by the Health and Safety Executive reveals that 34 per cent of nurses have been attacked while doing their jobs. The HSE said nurses were now five times more likely than the average worker to be the victims of such violence. Security and protective services workers, including police officers and doormen, were considerably less vulnerable, with 25 per cent of workers being attacked.

Next in the line of fire were social and care workers (21 per cent) and teachers and other education staff (14 per cent).

The HSE study showed that one in 12 of all female workers has now been the victim of violence by a member of the public, and one in 16 men. For some workers the violence is a regular occurrence, with 10 per cent of those workers who had been attacked saying it had happened at least five times in the past year.

The possibility of being threatened with violence is now almost commonplace in many British workplaces. Some 18 per cent of females had been threatened along with 15 per cent of male workers. Again, nurses were most at risk, with 48 per cent saying they had been threatened.

Health chiefs are alarmed. Next week Frank Davies, chairman of the Health and Safety Commission, will present Frank Dobson, the Health Secretary, with new plans for counteracting the tide of violence against health professionals. In one incident, nurse Sam Bell was threatened with a gun by a patient as he tried to collect him from his home. Fortunately the weapon was only an air pistol, though Mr Bell, who works in a Surrey hospital, was left badly shaken, with a broken thumb.

The new guidance is believed to include advice not to allow staff to work alone when they might be at risk and the provision of more alarm switches so that help can be summoned.