ALMOST one in five staff at the region’s biggest hospital trust say they have been assaulted by patients, relatives or the public over the past 12 months, according to a survey.

The national NHS staff survey for 2017 found that 18 per cent of staff at South Tees NHS Foundation Trust fell into this category – significantly above the national average of 12 per cent.

Meanwhile, 28 per cent of staff who responded to the survey said they had faced harassment, bullying or abuse by patients, relatives or the public while doing their job, again above the national average of 22 per cent.

Kevin Oxley, director of estates, ICT and health care records at the trust said: “South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust encourages staff to report all incidents of violence and aggression whether deemed intentional or not.

"As such we are seeing more incidents being reported which we deem a positive step.
“The vast majority of violence and aggression incidents are classed as ‘not intentional’ and are attributable to our patients’ medical and or mental health conditions.

"All reports of violence and aggression are investigated internally and all frontline staff are given specific training on identifying and dealing with potential violence and aggression.
“Any intentional incidents are reported to police and the trust adopts a zero tolerance approach in these cases and supports staff in seeking to prosecute offenders.

"We have a security management director and a local security management specialist, we comply with the NHS Protect Security Management Standards and we employ a full on-site security service with trained personnel available 24 hours a day to respond to emergency situations.

"We deploy attack alarms for staff when appropriate and in extreme circumstances deploy a security guard to monitor individual patients who are potentially violent.
“Support is readily available to any staff who may have been subjected to violence and aggression, including counselling and advice from our occupational health service.”

There was some good news for the trust, which has about 9,000 staff and operates the James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, and The Friarage Hospital, in Northallerton.

Employee satisfaction was generally high with 91 per cent of staff agreeing that their role made a difference to patients and service users.

They also prided themselves on the quality of work and care they delivered, rating a four on a scale of one to five (five being the highest), which was above the national average.

At neighbouring County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust the survey findings revealed that 24 per cent of staff had experienced harassment, bullying or abuse – but this time from their own colleagues. This was an increase on the 2016 figure of 20 per cent.

The likely effect of short staffing was also felt with 54 per cent of staff (up from the 47 per cent figure in 2016) stating they had been at work in the last three months despite feeling unwell because they felt pressure from their manager, colleagues or themselves.

A quarter of employees claimed they had witnessed potentially harmful errors, near misses or incidents in the past month, although this was lower than the national average of 29 per cent.

Among the positives highlighted by staff in the survey were improvements in effective team working, while 90 per cent of those surveyed believed there were equal for opportunities for all staff to progress their career or gain a promotion.

A spokeswoman for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our workforce is our greatest asset so it’s important we know how they are feeling and that we act to recognise both areas of good practice and areas where improvements are needed.

“We have action plans and existing work programmes in place and the results from the staff survey feed into these plans to tackle issues raised and to continue driving forward improvements both for our staff and our patients.”

The national picture revealed that stress levels had increased among NHS staff, but more felt their health and wellbeing was being supported.

NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer said results had been “challenging”.

He said: “We cannot expect staff to absorb additional work pressures year on year without it having an adverse effect on their experience of work.

“A long-term solution to sustainable investment in the NHS – and other vital public services – is clearly required.”