HOSPITAL staff in Basingstoke are increasingly on the receiving end of verbal abuse from patients and relatives, a new survey shows.

The Healthcare Commission's annual NHS survey reveals 26 per cent of medics and support staff working for Basingstoke hospital reported harassment during last year.

Although just two per cent of staff suffered physical violence, the number of staff that reported anti-social behaviour is above the national average and up from 19 per cent in the previous year.

The result was a blemish on an otherwise encouraging set of figures that showed improved work/life balance among staff compared with last year.

Staff morale and job satisfaction achieved one of the highest ratings in the UK.

Yvonne Coventry, human resources director for Basingstoke and North Hampshire NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We take harassment very seriously and this is normally dealt with at the time.

"The foundation trust also liaises closely with the NHS Security Management Service and the local police."

She added that the trust could also apply for court orders banning persistently abusive patients.

Steve Brazier, regional health secretary for Unison, which represents healthcare staff, said abusive conduct towards staff had increased and had to stop.

Mr Brazier said: "The survey shows good work that is undermined by levels of harassment and bullying from patients and their relatives."

Between October and December last year, 474 staff returned questionnaires from the Healthcare Commission asking for their views and experiences of working for the hospital - the town's largest employer, with 2,400 staff on its books.

Anna Walker, the commission's chief executive, said: "It is unacceptable for NHS staff, who provide vital, often life-saving, care, to be put in the position where they face violence and abuse as they go about their day-to-day work."

But despite experiencing more anti-social behaviour, stress levels in the hospital were found to be less than the average in England and Wales, with just 30 per cent complaining of work-related stress.

And although 68 per cent of staff felt they were working longer hours than originally contracted for, the overall work/life balance was found to be better than last year.

Furthermore, a lower percentage of staff was reported to be suffering workplace injury than in the previous 12 months.