A study published in the journal Occupational Medicine, found 29% of UK nurses had suffered frequent incidents of violence at the hands of patients or their relatives.
France had the worst scenario where 39% of nurses said they suffered frequent attacks. In Germany, 28% of nurses reported they had been assaulted at work.
AdvertisementThe figures emerged from a research conducted by the Royal College of Nursing last year from a list of 10 European countries including Belgium, Italy and Poland.
The study was based on a survey of 39,894 nurses. The authors observed: "Staff should be protected by a sound trust policy and incidents should be carefully monitored."
The research which included observers from France, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, found that violence had wide-reaching effects including nurses leaving the profession, problems with recruitment, recurring and increased days of sick leave and "burnout".
According to Dr Gordon Parker, president of the Society of Occupational Medicine, "The staff are the greatest asset that the NHS has, and preventing physical and emotional injuries from violence and aggression is essential."
In a separate study done last month more than half of British nurses on mental health wards had been physically assaulted at work. A joint report by the Healthcare Commission and Royal College of Psychiatrists found that nurses working with older people were the most likely to be attacked.
Almost three quarters of mental health nurses working for patients with disorders such as dementia reported being victims of violence. Some of these nurses described serious injuries, including fractures, dislocations and black eyes.
One psychiatric nurse was back at work after receiving a severe shoulder injury. A previous attack while at work left him with a fractured jaw.
The nurse said: "I felt it was very difficult to get the support I needed after I was attacked. There can be a real stigma from colleagues - particularly if you need to access psychiatric help."
Gail Adams, who heads nursing at Unison, the public sector union, said: "It is totally unacceptable for nurses to face rising levels of violence, when all they are trying to do is help and care for their patients. It is clear that, despite efforts to cut violence in the NHS, more needs to be done to protect staff. Prevention is the key, coupled with better training and tough penalties for anyone found guilty of assault."
According to Peter Carter from the Royal College of Nursing, "The RCN would like to see employers, the police service and the justice system taking serious action against perpetrators."
A spokesman for the Department of Health had this to say, "We are developing a proposal for a new accreditation scheme for those who offer training in the physical management of violence."