Doctors, nurses and other NHS staff were subjected to more than 2,000 physical assaults in just 12 months, new figures have revealed.
Health bosses have admitted they are concerned at the rising number of assaults in the West Midlands which have been described as ‘unacceptable.’
Just one in 40 of the recorded attacks led to police investigations.
There were 2,215 incidents of physical assault in the last year, an increase more than five per cent across the region, according to data from NHS Protect, a body which seeks to ensure staff security.
The figures include Birmingham, Solihull, Wolverhampton, Walsall and Dudley NHS Foundation Trusts, ambulance services, mental health hospitals and primary care trusts.
Nationally, the total number of attacks exceeded 60,000 for the first time in eight years.
More than 63,000 incidents of physical assault were recorded across 341 health authorities in England, a rise of around six per cent on the previous year, and the equivalent of 53 assaults per 1,000 members of staff.
Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust had the highest ratio of attacks per staff member in the region. There were 317 attacks per 1,000 members of staff, the eighth highest in England.
Richard Hampton, Head of Local Support and Development Services at NHS Protect, said: “We urge all NHS staff to report assault and acts of violence against them. Employers must do all they can to support staff in preventing incidents.”
There were 68 assault incidents at the Royal Wolverhampton Trust and 147 in the Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust. In these cases, more than two-thirds of the attacks were from patients whose medical condition was directly linked to the assault.
Examples of medically related attacks can include anything from dementia sufferers to patients who may lash at staff after coming out round after anaesthetic.
There were seven attacks at staff in Birmingham Women’s Hospital Foundation Trust, the highest recorded figure since 2005 and the sum of all attacks carried out in the previous five years put together. Of the seven, five were committed by patients where medical factors were relevant.
Staff at Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, endured 198 attacks in the last 12 months.
The Women’s NHS Trust still has one of the lowest ratio of attacks to staff in the West Midlands, with only 4 assaults carried out per 1,000 members of staff.
Christina McAnea, head of health at union Unison, said: “It is absolutely unacceptable that every day more than 173 NHS workers are physically assaulted and that only one in 40 cases results in a criminal sanction.
“Sadly, this is only the tip of the iceberg as violence on NHS premises remains an under-reported problem. No one should feel threatened at work.
“The cuts and resultant pressure on services are causing growing patient frustration especially in hospitals, and have significantly impacted on staff’s ability to cope.”
Despite the general rise across the West Midlands, University Hospitals Birmingham Trust, which is made up of Queen Elizabeth and Selly Oak hospitals, saw their reported assaults fall from 89 to 72 in the 12 months.
Grant Moss, head of security at the BUH Trust said: “We are obviously pleased that the figures have continued to drop.
Our total of physical assaults is very low compared to corresponding trusts with similar hospitals within the acute sector, but I want them reduced more.
“It also doesn’t take into account how many patients are actually seen by the Trust. We treated 700,000 patients last year, which is a lot more than many other Trusts, so that makes our figures look even better.”
Of the 13,444 incidents where a prosecution could have been pursued, nationally there were only 1,459 cases where the offender received some form of criminal sanction.
The rise in attacks has also been linked with increased pressure on NHS staff as the service faces £20 billion in government-imposed budget cuts.
Peter Carter, Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary, said: “We are concerned that front-line staff may be at greater risk because of additional pressures on services, leading to a growing level of frustration from some patients.
“If employers fail to provide a safe working environment for their staff it simply increases these pressures and this is bad for staff, bad for patient care and bad for the NHS.”