Shocking new figures have revealed a near 50% increase in cases of aggressive behaviour towards NHS Tayside staff.
The figures, released in response to a Freedom of Information inquiry, prompted one nursing union to call for a “zero tolerance” approach towards physical or verbal aggression towards staff.
The figures showed that there were 926 cases of verbal or physical aggression towards staff in 2014/15.
This rose to 985 the following year but then rocketed to 1,438 incidents in 2016/17 – a 46% increase.
Norman Provan, Royal College of Nurses Scotland associate director, said: “Nurses are already under pressure due to staff shortages and increasing demands on their time; they should not have to put up with verbal or physical assaults from those they are caring for or their families.
“All health boards have a duty of care to protect their staff from attack. They are expected to have policies in place to deal with these distressing situations and must always listen to their staff.
“They should also make clear to patients and their families that that they have a zero tolerance approach to any harassment or violence and that they will report all incidents to the police and seek a conviction if appropriate.”
In 2016/17 there were 642 cases of physical aggression by a patient or visitor and 404 incidents of verbal aggression.
Additionally, there were another 392 cases of aggressive behaviour where the nature of the incident was not specified.
NHS Tayside director of human resources and organisational development George Doherty said: “NHS Tayside staff should be able to come to their work each day without a fear of violence, abuse or harassment from patients, service users, or their relatives.
“NHS Tayside is committed to dealing with this issue, and we vigorously enforce a zero tolerance policy to any kind of violence, both physical and verbal, against any member of our staff, patients or visitors.”
Mr Doherty added staff who may have to deal with patients exhibiting violent behaviour, such as some dementia patients, are given additional support.
He said: “Staff working in areas where patients may display challenging behaviours are appropriately trained, adhering to NHS Tayside’s Aggression and Violence Management Policy.
“Staff are actively encouraged to report all episodes, no matter how minor, both to their line manager and on our electronic incident reporting system.
“Reporting all episodes in this way ensures that staff receive appropriate and practical support. Staff can also access our Wellbeing Service which provides a range of supportive services.
“We take each and every incident extremely seriously as it is a fundamental right of our staff that they can carry out their duties without having to face any kind of violence or the threat of violence.”