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Exclusive: One-in-10 nurses have been physically abused by patients

One-in-10 nurses have experienced physical abuse from a patient, according to a new survey.  

This means that 2,383 practice nurses in England have had to deal with physical abuse, since there are a total of 23,832 in the country, the latest data from Health and Social Care Information Centre revealed.

Moreover, nurses are five times more likely than GPs to have experienced physical abuse from a patient, (10% versus 2%), according to a new report from the research division of Nursing in Practice's publishers, Cogora.

The report is based on its annual survey - including the views of 1,158 GPs, nurses, commissioners and other healthcare staff - that aims to better understand the current state of the NHS.

It found that nurses were also twice as likely to have experienced verbal abuse from a NHS colleague compared to GPs (26% versus 14%). However, family doctors were almost four times as likely than nurses to have received written abuse from a patient.

This comes after a Royal College of Nursing survey last year found that half of community nurses feel vulnerable at work, and that 63% have reported abuse over the last two years.

NHS Employers has said that “the NHS has had a 'zero tolerance' attitude towards violence since 1999 and there has been a significant increase in the numbers of offenders being prosecuted since 2003”.

Legally, employers have a duty “so far as it is reasonably practical” to protect the health, safety and welfare of staff members under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work etc Act.

More broadly, the survey also found that almost four-fifths (78%) of all respondents believed that the quality of care in the NHS had worsened over the last 18 months, with the main reasons for this cited as the clinical staff shortage (90%), and a lack of appointment time (82%).

Most nurse appointments usually last 11 minutes, according to the survey, but to provide quality care nurses said they need 20 minutes, almost double the current time of a consultation.

Moreover, nearly eight-in-10 (78%), cited insufficient healthcare budgets as a reason for declining quality care.

In order to address this, three quarters of nurses thought that NHS funding should be cut for certain treatments. Specifically, the respondents believed homeopathy should be cut (58%), acupuncture (40%), bariatric surgery for obese patients (32%), osteopathy (29%), chiropracty (27%) and IVF (26%). 

Read the report here