Violence against NHS staff has reached its highest level in five years, with one in seven health professionals attacked in the last year.

Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary, will unveil an initiative to reduce assaults, including faster prosecutions of offenders.

Ambulance workers, nurses and doctors in A&E and mental health personnel have borne the brunt of the increase, which has already prompted MPs to pass new legislation to help reduce attacks.

The latest staff survey of NHS staff in England shows that 15.2% said they had experienced physical violence from patients, relatives or the public in 2017.

“NHS staff dedicate their lives to protecting and caring for us in our times of greatest need and for any one of them to be subject to aggression or violence is completely unacceptable,” said Hancock.

“I have made it my personal mission to ensure NHS staff feel safe and secure at work and the new violence reduction strategy will be a key strand of that.”

“We will not shy away from the issue. We want to empower staff and give them greater confidence to report violence, knowing that they will see meaningful action from trusts and a consistent prosecution approach from the judicial system.”

A partnership between the NHS, Crown Prosecution Service and police forces is being set up to try to bring perpetrators in England to court more efficiently, as part of a tough new ‘zero tolerance’ approach to such crimes.

NHS trusts will also be examined on the quality and robustness of their plans to reduce violence as part of Care Quality Commission inspections.

Jacalyn Williams, a national officer for health with the union Unite, said : “This initiative to combat violence against those who work in the NHS is welcomed, but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Unite will be monitoring the government’s actions against this growing and very unpleasant phenomenon that is blighting such areas as A&E departments to see it follows through with its new tough zero tolerance policy.”

Lone Workers who conduct home visits are particularly vulnerable and the use of safety monitoring systems like ‘Lookout Call’ can provide the peace of mind that nobody using the system can be overlooked.