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Maximum prison terms for people found guilty of common assault against NHS staff are to double from six months to a year under new proposals.
Alongside police officers and firefighters, NHS staff will be covered by the new Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, which will come into force in November.
The Ministry of Justice said there had been 17,000 assaults on NHS staff and more than 26,000 assaults on police officers in the past year, with Justice Minister Rory Stewart stressing that staff deserve greater protection.
Professor Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England, said: "We have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to deliberate threats, abuse or violence made to any NHS staff. This behaviour from patients or members of the public will never be tolerated and should rightly be reported to the police."
Garrett Emmerson, from the London Ambulance Service, told the BBC: "This is not just about doing the right thing by our crews and making sure that people treat our crews with respect, this also impacts on our ability to get to the next patient. And with the service as busy as it is today, over 5,000 calls a day, then that has a real tangible effect on our ability to treat and care for patients across London."
Gareth Fitzgerald and Amanda Grantham, healthcare experts at PA Consulting, discusses how UK hospitals can improve patient flow