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Getting tough on violence

The government is to push ahead with plans for fines of up to £1,000 for anyone assaulting NHS staff.

The announcement by health minister Caroline Flint came as official figures showed over 60,000 NHS staff were physically assaulted by patients and relatives last year. The assaults involved one in five staff in mental health and learning disability services. Previous figures released by the Department of Health had shown there were 116,000 incidents against staff in 2002/3, when verbal abuse was added to violence. Under the plans developed by the NHS security management service and using new managerial powers, anyone being threatening or abusive to NHS staff could face a £1,000 fine and could be removed from the premises. A decision on whether a person would be removed from NHS premises would be taken by a local security management specialist, after it has been established whether the individual is in need of treatment or a danger to themselves. The process would be done by a medical practitioner and specially trained and accredited security staff. Where patients and those needing treatment are involved, they would be treated but could later be fined or face criminal action. NHS security management service managing director Jim Gee said the latest figures for violence against staff were the most accurate ever, due to improved reporting systems. He also said there had been a 15-fold increase in the number of prosecutions for offences since the management service was created in 2003. Training in conflict resolution for all 750,000 frontline NHS staff began in 2004, and around 250,000 staff have been trained so far. The training should give staff the skills to recognise and defuse potentially violent situations. Ms Flint said: ‘We aim to create a culture of respect towards NHS staff and, where needed, enforce it.’ FURTHER INFORMATION The consultation on the new powers ends on 1 September and is at www.dh.gov.uk

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