Physical violence and aggression towards NHS staff at a north London trust has gotten worse, a worker has revealed.

Whittington Health NHS Trust hopes to combat the abusive behaviour by launching a new campaign to encourage staff in speaking out and reporting patients or visitors who act in an aggressive or violent manner.

Data from a 2021 NHS staff survey shows that 12.4 per cent of staff at the trust experienced at least one incident of physical violence from patients, service users, relatives or the public in the previous 12 months.

And out of the 600,000 responses from 220 NHS trusts, 14.3 per cent of NHS workers said they had the same experience.

Sarah McDonald, a senior sister who has worked at the trust’s emergency department for six years, has called the abuse “relentless”.

She said: “The NHS is currently dealing with winter pressures, and this means patients are waiting longer than usual to be seen.

“Patients and visitors can become quite stressed and anxious, and they take it out on us.

“The verbal abuse is almost worse than the physical abuse because it’s relentless. It’s every day.”

The senior sister recalled one time when herself and her colleague were racially abused.

She said that Islington police have been responsive and she was glad to hear that the patient was charged and ordered to serve community service after the abuse.

And one incident during the height of the pandemic, according to Sarah, saw a patient spit at staff and they were arrested and found guilty of assault on an emergency worker.

The campaign features a “yellow, orange and red card” warning system for people who repeatedly demonstrate non-criminal but aggressive and abusive behaviour to staff.

Those who continue the abuse will receive a yellow card in a formal written warning before receiving a red card sanction and risk of police involvement.

Community-based staff who visit and treat patients in homes will also be supplied with discreet safety devices with built-in GPS and features to call police.

Chief nurse Sarah Wilding said: “No member of our staff should ignore verbal abuse or threats of violence. It’s simply not part of the job.”