Violence Policy

Violence against staff working in the NHS is a crime

The NHS zero tolerance zone is a nationwide campaign to stop violence against staff working in the NHS and employers will work with the police locally to prevent it.

The Government is determined to ensure that staff who spend their lives caring for others are not rewarded with intimidation and violence. ‘Violence’ means any incident where staff are abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances related to their work, involving an explicit or implicit challenge to their safety, well-being or health. The definition is not subjective – it is what is meant by zero tolerance’. Zero tolerance means ridding the NHS of intimidation and violence.

In September 1998 the NHS Executive carried out a survey of sickness absence, accidents and violence in 402 NHS Trusts in england. Its main findings were that, on average, seven violent incidents were recorded each month per 1,000 staff. This is equivalent to approximately 65,000 violent incidents against NHS Trust staff each year. Rates of recorded violent incidents were highest, overall, for priority NHS Trusts, e.g. mental health and learning disabilities, and nursing staff were more than twice as likely to be involved in a violent incident compared with all other staff.

The NHS zero tolerance zone campaign is supported by the Home Secretary, the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney General. Assaults against staff are regarded as serious matters, worthy of prosecution. The Lord Chancellor, who is also President of the Magistrates Association, has said that it is entirely legitimate for magistrates to respond decisively to a particular form of criminal behaviour, such as assaults on NHS staff, and to impose a sentence which has a deterrent component. Magistrates’ courts can impose up to six months’ imprisonment for common assault or assault occasioning actual bodily harm. If appropriate magistrates’ courts can commit to the Crown Court which can pass a stiffer sentence. The Crown Court can impose substantial periods of imprisonment and, in certain cases , a sentence of life imprisonment may be imposed.