A member of staff is assaulted almost every day on average at the NHS trust which runs Doncaster’s hospitals, shock figures reveal.
A Freedom of Information request showed staff at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Doncaster Royal Infirmary, Mexborough's Montagu Hospital and Bassetlaw Hospital, were attacked 1551 times between April 2013 and March 2018.
And the number of attacks has risen over the years from 204 in 2013/14 to 328 in 2017/18 across all sites.
Hospital bosses warned patients that they have a 'zero tolerance' approach towards attacks on members of staff.
But a union which represents hospital workers described the figures as 'distressing' and called for more investment in services.
Glenn Turp, regional director for the Royal College of Nursing in Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “It is distressing to see that these figures are increasing at such a rate.
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“All workers have the right to feel safe at work and it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that measures are taken to protect staff from harm.
“This was a major factor in encouraging the Royal College of Nursing to campaign for nursing staff to be covered by a new law that now makes it a specific offence to assault health care staff or other emergency workers.”
He added: “There is no doubt that improved staffing levels and properly funded services would help to mitigate the risk that patients become violent or aggressive.
“Increasingly we are seeing people who could have been treated or cared for elsewhere turning up at hospital and this adds pressure on services and staff there.
“Being a victim of verbal or physical violence can be extremely distressing and frightening for anyone and we would always do everything we could to ensure that our members received the right support and followed the right procedures for reporting any incidents of this nature.”
Unite regional officer Pat Pepper said: “NHS workers work tirelessly in increasingly stretched circumstances to deliver first class patient care. Any assault either verbal or physical is unacceptable.
“It is an ongoing issue and important for staff to have the correct training and managers to have adequate staffing levels. Employers must ensure that proper safeguarding is put in place for staff and that a supportive approach is taken to workers who are assaulted.”
The trust was not able to state which hospital site recorded the most attacks.
But they did show that 804 of the attacks were carried out by people affected by a medical condition.
747 were committed by people un-related to medical conditions.
Kerry Williams, security manager at the trust, said: “The trust takes incidents of violence and aggression towards staff very seriously and asks that patients and visitors to our hospitals treat all staff they encounter with respect.
“We have a rapid response team at the trust, which can be called upon to help if a member of staff feels that their personal safety is compromised.
“Staff who do experience such incidents are offered support and access to counselling services.”
She added: “The trust also has a good working relationship with South Yorkshire Police, offering a secure wi-fi platform and a base to share information around individuals who abuse staff. In some cases, where visitors are found to be regularly abusive towards staff, a criminal behaviour order will be sanctioned, only allowing them to visit the hospital in cases of genuine emergency.”
In a statement, South Yorkshire Police described attacks on health workers as “completely unacceptable.”
It added: “The Assaults on Emergency Workers Act 2018 came into force on Tuesday, November 13, and covers NHS staff and staff of agencies engaged in NHS supportive work.
“Its intention is to recognise the unique position that emergency workers fulfill and afford them greater protection through increased penalties for offenders convicted of assaulting them whilst engaged in their emergency work.
“The police will use this legislation on anyone found to be attacking emergency workers who are simply there to do a job.”