The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.

Violence on the rise

The 2019 staff survey results are in and violence against staff in the NHS from patients and the public is on the rise again.

Almost 15 per cent of NHS workers reported they had experienced at least one instance of violence over the last year.

Black and minority ethnic staff were more likely than white staff to have experienced violence from patients or the public. Ambulance trusts and mental health and learning disability trusts also continued to report high levels of violence directed at staff from patients.

The health and social care secretary swiftly announced new measures designed to combat this. He also wrote to NHS staff, condemning abuse and urging them to report all aggressive and violent behaviour shown towards them.

Under new plans to come in from April, NHS hospitals will be able to protect staff by barring non-emergency care for any patient who discriminates, harasses or is violent towards staff.

Mr Hancock also announced a new agreement between the NHS and Crown Prosecution Service to set out standards frontline emergency workers can expect if they are a victim of abuse.

This follows a 2018 change in legislation, which doubled jail sentences for assaults on emergency workers.

However, the Health Foundation’s Hugh Alderwick said the survey’s findings show how difficult it will be for the government’s 50,000 more nurses pledge to be achieved.

He added: “The public relies on NHS staff for their health and wellbeing, so it’s only right that theirs is taken just as seriously.”

Meanwhile on one of the staff survey questions which is often of interest to members of the public — whether staff consider care to be a good standard for their friends and family — we have analysed findings for different regions and categories of trust.

To share or not to share

Judging by the media interest generated by deals struck between the Department of Health and Social Care and Amazon or NHS trusts and Google Health, one could be forgiven for thinking data privacy is a major cause for concern among NHS patients.

But the latest figures from NHS Digital showing how many people have used their right to opt out of data sharing schemes doesn’t necessarily support this.

Since patients were able to opt out when the new data policy went live in May 2018, only around 10,000 have done so. And more than 3,000 patients have reversed their original decision of opting out.

It would be wise to be wary about drawing conclusions, as the numbers are very small. However, privacy campaigners claim the figures are a stark indicator the opt out is not widely known about, despite a marketing campaign when the policy went live.

Meanwhile, it appears the NHS itself is not as au fait with the opt out as it should be.

Sources have told HSJ the service is likely to miss the March deadline for complying with the opt out, leaving care providers at risk of breaching data protection legislation.

The reasons for non-compliance will be varied. Achieving compliance takes time and effort when many staff’s attention is focused on other operational matters.

But treating patient data appropriately is a red line for NHS technology chiefs, who will not look favourably on providers hauled up in front of the Information Commissioner.