NEARLY a third of hospital workers in Colchester have suffered harassment, bullying and abuse from patients, research has shown.

The Government has announced new measures to better protect health service staff in England, calling for a “zero tolerance” approach and an increase in sentence for defendants found guilty of assault.

Responses to the latest NHS Staff Survey show 30 per cent of workers at Colchester Hospital experienced bullying, harassment or abuse from patients, relatives or members of the public in 2017.

A total of 29 per cent said they had been verbally abused or harassed by a fellow member of staff.

About 1,580 employees responded to the survey.

One in six said they had experienced physical violence.

Healthcare workers union, Unison, said anyone threatening or abusing NHS staff “should be prosecuted”.

Paul Fenton, director of estates and facilities at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, said: “We have a zero tolerance policy towards any kind of violence at the Trust which includes physical, verbal, gender or racial abuse.

“We have strongly encouraged all of our staff and volunteers to report any incidents of violence and aggression and we have reviewed and improved how we track those reports through the organisation and in training staff.

“This could account for the increase at Colchester Hospital, people feel supported by the training and feel comfortable in making the reports.

“The latest numbers also include patients who have not maliciously or wilfully attacked staff, but have made an assault due to a medical or clinical reason.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has introduced the first NHS Violence Reduction Strategy, a series of measures designed to safeguard NHS workers against deliberate attacks and abuse.

The Department for Health and Social Care said the NHS was partnering with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute offenders.

The plans follow the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act earlier this year, which doubled the maximum prison sentence for assaulting an emergency worker from six months to a year.