Stronger protection from violence for NHS staff

Philip Hammond Chancellor of the Exchequer

North East health staff have welcomed new measures, aimed at protecting them from violence.

Matt Hancock will today roll out the health service's first violence reduction strategy to protect vulnerable staff.

In a speech to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Mr Hancock will set out how the NHS will work with the criminal justice system to make sure victims are supported to give evidence and achieve prosecutions in the quickest and most seamless way possible.

The measures are part of a new violence reduction strategy launched by the Department of Health and Social Care to better protect NHS staff from attacks and abuse. It is therefore vital that this investment is protected for mental health to ensure it brings about the promised improvements in care and support and to put right the decades of under-investment in mental health services throughout the NHS.

In addition, NHS trusts will in future be examined on the quality and robustness of their plans to reduce violence as part of Care Quality Commission inspections.

In some cases prosecutions may not be appropriate, such as when assaults are carried out by patients with dementia, brain injuries or mental health problems.

A new law came into force last month that doubled the maximum prison sentence for members of the public who assault NHS staff or emergency service workers from six months to a year, although many believe that still isn't long enough.

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While Monday's pledged investment is very welcome, and a recognition of how much more there is to do before the NHS treats mental health equally with physical health, it must also be matched by fairer funding for public health, early years and social care services in local government.

"It is a sad fact that nearly none of the perpetrators receive custodial sentences when they are prosecuted for assaulting our staff", the association's managing director Martin Flaherty said. Services that prevent poor mental health and that enable people to live well have been cut back in recent years, putting more and more pressure on individuals, families, communities and health services.

The soon-to-published 10-year NHS plan will see the introduction of a new mental health crisis service, which will see teams placed in accident and emergency units across the country, and the introduction of a 24-hour mental health crisis hotline.

Sara Gorton, Head of Health for Unison, added: "No-one should be abused, threatened or attacked at work - especially when all they're trying to do is help people".

NHS staff spend their working days caring and saving lives, and their safety should be paramount.

Dr Taj Hassan, the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, which represents A&E doctors, said: "Patients - and their families - coming into emergency departments are often experiencing the worst day of their lives: anxious, confused and often frustrated".

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