Around 400 attacks were launched on NHS staff in Tayside this year, shocking figures have shown.
While people clapped on the streets to praise NHS heroes battling the Covid-19 front line, 308 physical assaults were endured by staff across the region.
Latest figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request also show that staff suffered 86 verbal attacks and less than five sexual attacks during 2020.
The numbers – which do not include December’s figures – are already higher than 2019, which recorded 304 incidents of physical aggression against a member of staff by a patient and 68 incidents of verbal assault.
In 2018 there were 278 incidents of physical aggression by a patient, and 63 incidents of verbal abuse.
However, the figures from 2018-20 show a significant reduction from more than 840 recorded incidents in 2015.
Bob McGlashan, senior officer at the Royal College Of Nursing (RCN), said: “Nursing teams were already under pressure due to staff shortages and increasing demands before the Covid-19 pandemic and we are all well aware of the extra pressure on staff since March.
“They should not have to put up with verbal or physical assaults from those they are caring for or their families.
“One assault on a nurse or any other health care worker is one assault too many at any time, never mind during the pandemic.”
He continued: “All health boards have a duty of care to protect their staff from attack.
“They are expected to have policies in place to deal with these distressing situations and must always listen to their staff.
“They should also make clear to patients and their families that they have a zero-tolerance approach to any harassment or violence and that they will report all incidents to the police and seek a conviction if appropriate.”
NHS Tayside said any form of attack on staff will not be tolerated and will be reported to police.
Every incident taken ‘extremely seriously’
A spokeswoman said: “NHS Tayside has a very strict zero-tolerance policy to any kind of violence, both physical and verbal, against any member of our staff, patients or visitors which we vigorously enforce.
“Staff are actively encouraged to report all episodes, no matter how minor, and we have a good working partnership with local police to manage incidents when they may occur.
“We take each and every incident extremely seriously as it is a fundamental right of our staff that they can carry out their duties without having to face any kind of violence or the threat of violence.”