Nearly 56,000 people working for the NHS were assaulted while doing their job last year, new figures have shown.
The number of attacks rose from 55,709 in 2006/2007 to 55,993 in 2007/08 – a total rise of 284. By far the largest number occurred in mental health trusts, with workers experiencing 39,934 incidents. But 3,607 took place in primary care trusts, up 162 on the previous year.
The biggest rise in the number of attacks was against staff working in NHS acute and foundation trusts. There were 10,983 assaults directed at NHS acute and foundation workers in 2007/08, up 1,298 on the previous year.
Data from the NHS Security Management Service (SMS) also showed a rise in the number of sanctions, including anti-social behaviour orders, made against people who attack NHS staff. There were 992 sanctions last year - an increase of 123 on the previous year. In 2002/03, 51 sanctions were recorded.
Dermid McCausland, managing director of the NHS Counter Fraud and SMS, said: "We firmly believe this rise demonstrates a shift in culture among staff who are saying they will not accept violence as part of the job and are demonstrating this by reporting rather than an actual increase in assaults."