Shock new statistics have shown NHS Lanarkshire staff are being assaulted, on average, three times every day.
The latest annual figures, obtained by a Freedom of Information request, show over 1000 incidents were reported across the region.
Union body, Unison, unveiled the challenges that health staff face in a damning report called ‘Violent assaults: NHS staff in Scotland’.
It shows there were 18,389 assaults in Scotland from the start of April 2021 to the end of March 2022 – with 1173 of these incidents affecting NHS Lanarkshire staff.
The health board says violence or aggression “never has been tolerated and it will certainly not be now”.
However, Unison Scotland’s head of health, Matt Mclaughlin is dismayed at the latest figures, and thinks the number of assaults could be even higher than reported.
He said : “One assault on NHS staff is one too many.
"Over 18,000 assaults of NHS staff is simply unacceptable.
“And we are under no doubt that there is considerable under-reporting. Working in the NHS is stressful enough without having to worry about your personal safety.
"NHS boards must take a zero-tolerance approach and improve the reporting system which NHS staff have little faith in.
“While NHS boards must invest in dynamic risk assessments, staff training and reporting systems, it is vital that the Scottish Government tackles the staffing crisis in the NHS.
"They must recruit and invest in staff so they can reduce waiting times and ensure there are adequate staff to deal with difficult situations with patients.
“Staff are under huge pressure due to the staffing crisis in the NHS and they need time to report incidents. NHS staff have little trust in the current DATIX reporting system.
"They need to know if they report something it will be dealt with there and then and that the police will be called.”
UNISON uncovered the grim statistics after surveying every health board in Scotland, both territorial and special health boards, using Freedom of Information legislation as part of the union’s annual violence at work report.
The Unison report itself states: “One assault on a worker who is providing a valuable public service is one assault too many.
"This would be the case whether the assault was reported or not.
“To some extent the increase in reported assaults over the past decade has been the result of campaigning led by Unison to have violence at work taken seriously by employers as well as staff and the public.
“The improvements in reporting over the past decade have at least been partly due to this series of reports. It has improved awareness, and improved reporting procedures by employers – and made it easier for workers to report incidents.
“We believe, however, that there are many incidents which remain hidden. Anecdotal evidence suggests this.
"But there are considerable differences in figures between NHS employers for which low figures and poor information suggests we still face a good deal of under-reporting.
“These issues are not unique to NHS boards. They are across the public sector.”
And the report concludes: “NHS staff should expect a safe and secure workplace. NHS boards have a duty to do their utmost to prevent staff from being assaulted in the course of their work.
“NHS boards should take a positive zero tolerance approach towards tackling the problem of violence at work.”
NHS Lanarkshire is calling out those who are aggressive to staff, saying their behaviour is completely unacceptable.
The health board now wants to make it clear that it will not tolerate violence or aggression towards staff members.
Kay Sandilands, NHS Lanarkshire’s director of human resources, said: “NHS Lanarkshire operates a zero tolerance policy against anyone who is knowingly violent or aggressive towards any of our staff and we are continually working in partnership with local police in the management of aggressive and violent individuals.
“Across our system, pressures have continued to increase which has contributed to a very understandable sense of frustration and distress for service users, carers and their families, as well as for staff across our teams and services.
“The majority of the public have been very supportive of our staff and we would thank them for that.
"Sadly, however, a minority engage in behaviours and attitudes towards some of our staff that is completely unacceptable.
“We wish to make abundantly clear to those who would engage in any form of violence or aggression; it never has been tolerated and it will certainly not be now.
“Prevention and management of violence and aggression training is mandatory for all NHS Lanarkshire staff, to enable and equip them to manage violent or potentially violent patients and others.
"We encourage staff to record all incidents and have robust procedures in place to ensure that support is provided to our staff.
“Please be kind to our staff who are committed to caring, no matter the circumstances.”
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