The number of successful prosecutions of patients and relatives who physically abuse NHS staff has jumped nearly 15 fold in a year as the Department of Health's "zero tolerance" policy starts to bite.

The rising tide of "intolerable" violence against doctors, nurses, receptionists and managers - often caused by drunkenness - is not confined to accident departments but has spread to the wards, GPs' surgeries and even ambulances.
Figures released yesterday show that in 2004-05 there were 759 successful prosecutions compared to just 51 in the previous year.

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