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Joint Statement: Abuse of health and care staff

Health and care staff have been subject to a growing tide of abuse from sections of the public and patients over the last few months.

There have been particularly visible and distressing incidents directed at primary care staff in recent weeks. However this phenomenon is happening right across health and care. As well as GPs and their teams, ambulance staff, receptionists, call handlers, staff working in urgent and emergency care, vaccinators, midwives, social care staff and nurses and others all report an unprecedented rise in abuse directed towards them.

In addition we know that violence against NHS staff has, sadly, been part of the healthcare landscape for too long.

As organisations representing staff and employers we are absolutely clear that verbal or physical abuse of health and care staff is completely unacceptable in any setting including on social media.

We understand that patients become frustrated at long waits, delays in their care or other problems in the delivery of the services they rightly expect.

However, blaming individual members of staff, whether clinical or administrative, for systemic problems caused by huge increases in demand coupled with a lack of resources and workforce capacity is completely inappropriate. It leads to demoralisation, burnout and illness for the individuals and further worsens pressure on services more widely.

The health and care system were under strain long before COVID. But the pandemic multiplied those pressures, putting unprecedented strain on services. And that challenge is going to continue for some long time to come as waiting lists and restricted access to services will get worse before they get any better.

Government and the media both have a responsibility to be honest and transparent with the public about the pressures facing health and care services and that this is going to have direct implications for patients and their carers. This means making clear that the problems are systemic and that blaming and abusing individual staff members is never acceptable behaviour.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges

Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of Council, British Medical Association

Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive NHS Employers,/Deputy Chief Executive NHS Confederation

Gill Walton, General Secretary, Royal College of Midwives

Susan Aitkenhead, UK Director of Nursing and Deputy General Secretary/CEO Royal College of Nursing

Sara Gorton, Head of Health UNISON

11 October 2021