Unions representing health workers warned that this was likely to be only "the tip of the iceberg" because of difficulties in reporting such attacks, and called for prevention policies to be toughened up.
The survey, carried out for the quarterly journal the Health Service Report, questioned 105 trusts about the incidence and nature of violence experienced by healthcare trusts.
Jeremy Baugh, of the Industrial Relations Services and author of the report said he was "very surprised" by the level of assaults the survey uncovered.
Those most at risk are staff who work in community and mental health trusts where one in three staff were the victims of assault. Around one in 10 of all violent incidents result in major injury but amongst community and mental health trusts this rises above 20 per cent. More than one in 20 of assaults involve use of a weapon.
Unison, Britain's biggest health union said they thought the figure was higher than 10 per cent. "[Our] own survey findings consistently show around 40 per cent of NHS staff suffer violent attacks at work," said Jon Richards, Unison's health and safety officer.
Tackling violence against NHS staff has been made a priority by the Government. In June Health Minister Alan Milburn said the Government was "determined to provide a safe environment so that staff can deliver care without fear of violence". Last year the Health and Safety Commission recommended a systematic approach to the problem.
Ninety per cent of trusts questioned said that they had a formal policy on violence. However, only one in seven trusts has carried out a risk assessment covering violence at work.Reuse content