One in five NHS staff at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals experienced physical violence from patients last year, figures show.

The Government has announced new measures to better protect health service staff in England, calling for a “zero tolerance” approach.

Responses to the latest NHS staff survey show that 19 per cent of workers at the trust said they had experienced physical violence from patients, relatives or members of the public in 2017.

Some 4,270 employees responded to the survey, which also asked staff whether they had experienced bullying, harassment or abuse at work.

More than a third of respondents said they had been verbally abused by patients or members of the public.

Nearly a third said they had been bullied or harassed by a fellow member of staff.

The Royal College of Nursing said that those who “wilfully assault” NHS workers should “feel the full force of the law”.

National officer Kim Sunley said: “Nurses and health care workers understand their roles aren’t risk free but, to many, it still seems as if the threat of physical violence is a daily reality.”

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.

Mr Hancock said it was “unacceptable” health workers had been subjected to violence.

The Department for Health and Social Care said the NHS was partnering with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute offenders quickly under a “zero-tolerance” approach.

The Care Quality Commission will be scrutinising individual trusts based on their plans to reduce violence against staff and identify those that need further help to protect their employees.

The department also said a new system for recording assaults and other incidents of abuse or harassment. Trusts will be expected to investigate incidents thoroughly. Staff will also be provided with better training to deal with violent situations.