Violent attacks on doctors and nurses have reached record levels.

Official figures show that nearly 56,000 NHS staff were assaulted last year, but fewer than one in 50 attacks led to a prosecution. The total of 55,993 attacks on workers in 2007/08 was a rise of 284 on the previous year's figures.

Knife detectors are being installed in hospital entrances to help prevent violence in Accident and Emergency departments.

A mobile "knife arch" is being used by Merseyside Police to uncover weapons and protect hospital staff and patients from attacks. Southport Hospital in Sefton is believed to be the first hospital in the country to use knife detectors, but it is hoped the scheme will be expanded across the county.

According to a poll by Nursing Times magazine, four in 10 nurses working outside hospitals are so afraid of knife crime that they want to be issued with stab-proof vests, and two thirds of community nurses said they also feared knife attacks.

Community nurses often travel alone treating people in their homes, and are said to be more at risk. Three years ago, the Government pledged that all NHS lone workers would be given a security alarm so they could covertly contact police if they were in danger.

This week's poll by Nursing Times found that just 20 per cent had been issued with an alarm, while 43 per cent said community nurses faced such dangers that some required stab vests.

Yet in an exclusive interview with NHS 247, Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, called for the employment of trained security staff to help protect NHS staff. 

He said: "There have been a number of agencies, and trusts talking about nurses, receptionists, radiographers, junior doctors being put in stab-proof vests- we feel very weary about this. 
"If you have nurses or others in those stab proof vests, there's somehow an implicit understanding that they're the people there to do the restraining. I also think psychologically they could become a bit of a target, and frankly, nurses are not trained or employed to be restraining these individuals. We feel that the solution should be the employment of properly trained security staff."

Around 75,000 NHS staff are subjected to assaults every year, but less than 1,000 of the incidents lead to prosecution.

What do you think about installing knife detectors in hospitals?

Do you think it's a proactive approach in reducing violent attacks on staff?

Is there a real threat of violence towards staff on hospital wards? What are your experiences on the job?

What do you think about the call for stab-proof vests for NHS staff?

Or should hospitals concentrate on employing properly trained security staff as suggested by Peter Carter?