Violence and bullying shouldn’t be ‘just part of the job’

You shouldn’t have to go to work in a caring, under-resourced profession and expect to get punched, abused and spat upon by patients and their relatives. A healthcare setting should be a safe working environment for workers and patients alike. But a recent YouGov poll reported that three in 10 (30%) NHS workers who interact with patients say they experience violence from a patient at least once a year, including one in 20 (5%) who say they are subject to attacks at least once a week. The NHS staff survey reports that 14% of NHS workers experience violence physical violence in a year from patients or relatives.

A staggering 32 ambulance staff a day were abused or attacked last year, including kicking, head-butting, and attacks with knives and other weapons. That’s a 40% increase on the previous five years.

Here’s a quote from an NHS worker we spoke to: “The reality is harder than any one can imagine unless you’ve been in health care or a patient. I had three attacks in one day for me from three different people, as they only had three security staff. It was horrendous and it still happens.”

While three-quarters of staff would report physical violence, more than half feel that bullying and harassment are just part and parcel of the working environment and don’t bother to report it.

A healthcare setting has become a relentlessly high-pressure environment. Patient overcrowding, understaffing, COVID, the drive to release patients all contribute to a setting that drives staff to the edge. A quarter of staff report that they have experienced aggressive behaviour from fellow staff members in any year.

Being frightened and fearful every time you go to work is something none of us should experience. It takes a permanent mental toll on staff and their families and contributes to the high leaving rate and sickness levels amongst NHS staff.

At the Healthcare Workers’ Foundation, we’re working to make the workplace just a little safer, and to provide counselling services for every healthcare worker experiencing trauma. We also offer a programme of counselling to staff, including those affected by workplace violence.

To contact us about our services, email us at