Date Published: 9 July 2007

A third of nurses working alone in the community have been assaulted or harassed in last two years

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

More than one third of UK nurses working alone have been assaulted or harassed in the last two years according to a survey released today by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). The survey of nearly 1,000 nurses also shows that over half (52%) of nurses working alone thought that the threat of violence or abuse has increased over the same period.

The survey results are published on the same day the RCN launch the “You're not alone” campaign which calls on the government to honour its commitment to protect lone workers through funding training and technology to call in help quickly.

In March 2005 the then Health Secretary of State John Reid said he would “do everything within my power to stop NHS staff suffering from violence and abuse” and would work to provide lone workers with the 'Identicom' system which enables the individual to discreetly call for emergency assistance and records verbal abuse for use in court . Two years on only three percent of trusts have invested in such a system.

Speaking today RCN General Secretary Dr Peter Carter said:

Attacks on nurses, whether physical or verbal, are completely unacceptable and the results of this survey are extremely disappointing.

_ Two years ago the government committed to a system that will dramatically increase the ability to record evidence of attacks and give nurses the ability to instantly call in support in the event of an emergency; two years on from this promise the situation has worsened and the system has not been implemented.

_ The change from care based in hospitals to the community will mean more and more nurses working alone, caring for patients in their homes and away from other staff. We need to make sure that nurses working alone are properly protected, fully supported and feel secure, that's why we are launching this campaign.

The survey also found:

  • Approximately 85% of respondents spent more than a quarter of their time working alone away from colleagues. In addition, more than half (53%) stated that they worked outside of normal office hours.
  • Approximately two-thirds of respondents thought that a mobile device disguised as an ID card holder, together with 24/7 monitoring and training, would increase their confidence to work alone.
  • Two-thirds of respondents (66%) stated that their employer did not know their whereabouts or only 'sometimes' knew their whereabouts when they were working.
  • More than four-fifths (82 %) stated that their employer had a lone worker policy, although of these, 17.% had not been provided with a copy of it.
  • More than a third of respondents had been assaulted or harassed in the last two years and 6% stated that they had experienced a physical assault. Not all incidents were reported to managers; indeed only 45% of verbal assaults were reported to managers and only 86% of physical assaults. More than a quarter of physical assaults were regarded as racial in nature.
  • When respondents had experienced an incident and reported it to their managers, they were most commonly offered immediate support (51%) or counselling and debriefing (23%).
  • Most commonly, lone workers used a mobile phone for safety, although it was not unusual for these to be their own and not supplied by their employer. Identicom was used by only 3% of respondents.
  • Almost a fifth of respondents had not received any conflict management training at all. Almost half had not received any such training in the last two years.

Source: Royal College of Nursing (RCN), UK.

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