Nearly a third of NHS staff at the North Tees and Hartlepool Trust have been bullied, harased or abused by patients last year, new figures show.
Responses to the latest NHS Staff Survey show that 30% of workers at the trust, which runs the University Hospital of Hartlepool, and University Hospital of North Tees, said they had been mistreated by patients, relatives or members of the public in 2017.
One in seven said that they had been the victim of physical violence.
Trust bosses say such violence is ‘totally unacceptable’ and have launched a new respect campaign to help drive home the message.
A further 24% said they had been verbally abused or harassed by a fellow member of staff.
Around 620 employees responded to the survey, which also asked workers about incidents of physical violence at work.
Julie Gillon, chief executive at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I am committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all staff who work in our hospitals and community settings.
“This includes protecting them whilst they deliver care to the people of North Tees and Hartlepool.
“Unfortunately there has been an increase in reported incidents of violence and I hope our recent ‘respect’ campaign acts as a reminder to members of the public that staff work incredibly hard and it is completely unacceptable for them to be subject to any form of violence or aggression.”
The campaign uses posters featuring the children of members of staff asking that their relatives are kept safe while at work and stress the NHS’s zero tolerance policy to violence.
Healthcare workers union Unison said that anyone threatening or abusing NHS staff “should be prosecuted”.
Head of health Sara Gorton said: “No one should be abused, threatened or attacked at work - especially when all they’re trying to do is help people.”
The Government has announced new measures to better protect health service staff in England, calling for a zero tolerance approach.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has introduced the first NHS Violence Reduction Strategy, a series of measures designed to safeguard NHS workers against deliberate attacks and abuse.
Mr Hancock said it was “unacceptable” health workers had been subjected to violence and aggression.
The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that the NHS was partnering with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute offenders quickly under a “zero-tolerance” approach.
The Care Quality Commission will be scrutinising individual trusts based on their plans to reduce violence against staff and identify those that need further help to protect their employees.
The plans follow the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act earlier this year, which doubled the maximum prison sentence for assaulting an emergency worker from six months to a year.
England-wide, 15% of NHS employees experienced violence in 2017, the highest figure for five years.
Dr Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, welcomed the new measures, saying: “Patients and their families coming into emergency departments are often experiencing the worst day of their lives; worried, confused and often frustrated.
“This can be understandable. What is unacceptable though is when this spills over into violence.”
He added: “Staff always seek to give the best care possible in a hugely pressurised environment – it is always wrong to lash out at those trying to help.”