The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has produced new safety guidance for “lone workers”.
To coincide with National Personal Safety Day, the RCN has published a new guide to support nursing staff who work alone.
After a 2015 RCN survey of its members found that almost half of nursing staff based in the community have dealt with abuse in the last two years.
More than 11% of cases involved both physical abuse or assault, in addition to verbal abuse.
The guidance advises nurses on personal safety, including their right to refuse to treat a patient if there is a serious or imminent threat.
The guide says: “Your employer cannot dismiss or discipline you for leaving your workplace because of danger which you believe to be ‘serious and imminent’ and which you could not be reasonably expected to prevent.”
However, it also says care can be “given whilst the patient’s violence is managed”.
Kim Sunley, RCN senior employment relations adviser, said: “Nursing staff who work alone for long or even short periods of time are more vulnerable to physical and verbal abuse.
“As more care is provided in the community, the number of nursing staff working alone will inevitably increase.
“Employers are bound by law to take appropriate measures to protect the safety of their employees, and nursing staff can also take practical steps to reduce risk.
“The new guidance aims to support nursing staff and their employers to ensure that everyone is as safe as possible while carrying out their vital work.”
The guide also contains a checklist for RCN safety representatives who work on negotiating improvements to workplace safety for members and nurse managers who manage lone working staff.