Violent assaults by patients against hospital staff should be rare events - but they are not, the findings of a new study show.
A survey of one district health board showed that out of 227 people, a third had been attacked in the past year, 65 percent experienced physical agression and 93 percent had been shouted and sworn at.
One of the researchers, Chris Gale, says the rates are disturbingly high but not unexpected, with emergency departments and psychiatric units the most dangerous.
The psychiatrist told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Friday that more research is needed to find out what changes hospitals could make to curb violence, such as having special units for dealing with drunk patients, and rostering extra staff or using security personnel.
The study has been published in the New Zealand Medical Journal.