Official figures indicate that there were over 14,000 assaults on staff in NHS Scotland over the last nine months.
There were 13,957 incidents of violence against staff in the nine months to December 2015, figures obtained by Scottish Labour reveal.
Full-year data for the previous financial year indicates that in excess of 22,000 incidents of violence took place within the health service in Scotland.
The shocking figures have drawn condemnation from all strata of the political process.
In particular, the Scottish government indicated that “perpetrators must be dealt with in the strongest possible terms”.
Responding to the information acquired by Scottish Labour, the hierarchy of the party implored the Scottish government to ensure that individuals who attack staff are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Steps should also be taken in order to minimise violence against staff, according to the Scottish Labour party.
Commenting on the issue, the public services spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party, Dr Richard Simpson, was strident in his belief that the existing situation is simply unacceptable.
“No-one should face the threat of violence for doing their job. Our NHS staff are Scotland’s unsung heroes having dedicated their careers to helping others and saving lives. We learned this week that more working days are being lost due to staff stress, but these new figures should concern us all.”
Simpson also called for stiffer penalties to be levied against people who act violently within the health service.
“The SNP government must work with health boards, trades unions and staff to ensure that the conditions exist where such offences are minimised – and also to ensure that those who are violent are properly prosecuted. Many people will question if a fine is the most appropriate way to deal with assaults on NHS staff.”
The Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison largely agreed with the position of Simpson, and spoke out strongly against the culture of violence that NHS employees must tolerate.
“Attacks against our NHS staff are despicable and the perpetrators must be dealt with in the strongest possible terms. No-one should be the victim of abuse or violence while at work. We continue to encourage all NHS organisations to support criminal proceedings against anyone who assaults our staff.”
However, Robinson also defended the Scottish government against accusations of leniency, outlining the legislative measures in place to deal with violence in the health service.
Robinson noted that the Emergency Workers Act includes a penalty of up to 12 months’ imprisonment, a £10,000 fine, or both.
“In 2008 this government extended the act to include GPs and doctors, nurses and midwives working in the community. Enforcing this extended law, and working with NHS boards, staff and trade union representatives has helped to bring down the number of attacks and improve workplace safety. The 2015 NHS Scotland staff survey found a 10 percentage point reduction in the number of staff who had experienced a physical attack since 2008. NHS staff care for the health of our country and that’s why we must all be ready to stand up for them.”