Published: 27/03/2003, Volume II3, No. 5848 Page 7

The NHS looks set for a spectacular failure to meet the April target of a 30 per cent reduction in violence and aggression against staff over four years.

In 1999, the government's zerotolerance campaign set targets to reduce violence by 20 per cent in April 2002 and 30 per cent next month. But a report published today by the National Audit Office reveals levels of violence and aggression against staff rose by 43 per cent in the four years from 1998-99 to April last year.

And NAO says increased patient expectations - in particular, on waiting times - have contributed to levels of violence.

The report says that just onefifth of trusts met the April 2002 target of a 20 per cent reduction, and calls for better training, consistent approaches to prosecuting the culprits and more help for staff to pursue civil claims.

It says better awareness of the need for reporting has contributed to the apparent increase.

'But many trusts consider that increased hospital activity and higher patient expectations, particularly in relation to waiting times, have also contributed to an increase in the actual levels of violence, ' the NAO adds.