PEOPLE who abuse or threaten NHS staff could be fined £1,000 under Government plans announced today.
In a move designed to foster a `culture of respect' Health Minister Caroline Flint set out plans to tackle verbal abuse.
It comes after figures showed that 60,385 NHS staff were physically assaulted by patients and relatives last year - one in every 22 NHS staff.
There are worries that verbal abuse easily escalates into physical violence.
Under the new plans, developed by the NHS Security Management Service, people who are threatening or abusive could be fined £1,000.
NHS bosses will also have greater powers to remove offenders from the premises.
People needing treatment who behave in an anti-social way will still be treated, but could later face fines or prosecution.
Ms Flint said: "It is unacceptable that NHS staff have to suffer abuse at the hands of those they are trying to help. NHS staff deserve respect, not abuse."
The Unison union welcomed the move, but said the latest figures were `the tip of the iceberg'. It said many incidents of abuse and violence were unreported.
The 2004/05 figures are for physical violence. The separate verbal assault figures will be published later in the year.