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November 16, 2009

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NHS workers urged to voice safety concerns

The managing director of the service set up to safeguard NHS workers in England has pledged to ensure that the health service and its staff are properly protected, in a special online broadcast to mark NHS Security Month.

Dermid McCausland explains how the “vital, year-round work” of the NHS Security Management Service (NHS SMS), which was launched in 2003, is carried out via a strong countrywide network of local security management specialists (LSMSs), who act as the first point of call for NHS staff who have any concerns about the safety of their working environment. The LSMSs are nominated by the health body they work for and are supported by staff in the SMS’s Legal Protection Unit.

According to figures for 2008/09 released today (16 November), the number of reported assaults on NHS staff was 54,758 — a decrease of 1235 on last year’s figure. However, the number of cases in which sanctions were taken against the perpetrators also decreased — from 992 in 2007/08 to 941 last year, meaning fewer than 2 per cent of attacks resulted in a prosecution.

Commented Mr McCausland: “Many will welcome the reduction in reported assaults this year. But the NHS is not complacent. We have more work to do to let all NHS staff know they should not accept violence as part of their job. We continue to maintain our efforts to protect staff. I would encourage staff to work with their Local Security Management Specialist to raise any concerns they may have about the safety of their working environment”.

In his broadcast, McCausland acknowledges that “emotions can run high” in NHS settings, but emphasises that before the SMS existed, “violent and abusive incidents were going unreported, so offenders went unpunished”.

According to Unison, which represents more than 400,000 workers in the NHS, there is a lot more to be done. A spokesperson for the union told SHP: “We do work closely with the SMS, and its development has been a positive thing, but there is no ‘one size fits all’ to ensuring safety. We are disappointed at the low number of prosecutions of those who attack NHS staff, and at the leniency of the sentences when they do come to court.

“We are happy to work with the SMS on prevention, but tougher sentencing and a greater knowledge about the likelihood of prosecution would help more.”

Mr McCausland’s broadcast is available to view and/or download at

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