Violence against NHS staff from patients or relatives

Using NHS staff surveys, we examine staff experiencing violence from patients/relatives.


Last updated: 07/07/2017

Primary and community care Hospital care Emergency care Mental health

The staff pledges, part of the NHS Constitution, define what the NHS expects from staff and what staff can expect from NHS employers. One of the pledges is to provide support and opportunities for staff to maintain their health, wellbeing and safety.

What do staff say about experiencing violence from patients or relatives? 15/04/2017

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Between 2007 and 2011 the percentage of staff who said they had experienced physical violence from patients/relatives in the past 12 months was low and fell from 11% in 2007 to 7% in 2011. This increased to around 15% in 2012 but it is not directly comparable to the previous year, as the way in which staff could respond to the question changed, making the responses more sensitive. The percentage of staff who reported experiencing physical violence from patients/relatives decreased to 12% in 2015. This then increased in 2016 back to 15%.

Staff in mental health & learning disability trusts (21% in 2016) and ambulance trusts (32% in 2016) consistently report higher levels of violence over the period compared to staff from other trust groups. This is likely to be a result of the nature of the patients that staff within these groups treat.

Does an individual's profile affect whether they experience violence? 15/04/2017

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It appears that the younger a staff member is the more likely they are to experience physical violence from patients/relatives, based on what staff reported in the survey. This may be linked to certain roles (such as healthcare assistants and registered nurses) being staffed by younger individuals, patients/relatives showing less restraint from violence towards younger members of staff, or younger people being more likely to report violence when asked in the survey. In 2016, 17% of 16-30 year olds responding to the survey reported experiencing violence compared to 9% of staff aged 51 and over.

About this data

For further information, please see the NHS Staff Survey website.

The data are unweighted. In 2012, the question became more sensitive to responses due to the amendment of response options.

National averages include other organisations outside of the sectors shown in the charts, for example PCTs and CCGs.

In 2015, extra categories were created for acute trusts and mental health & learning disability trusts that are combined community trusts. Where these trusts were previously coded as either acute trusts or mental health & learning disability trusts, the analysis included them in the categories they were previously in.