Nurses are the number one target for abuse by patients at Hawke's Bay Hospital.

According to data released after an Official Information Act request by Hawke's Bay Today, 20 incidents of physical assault and 42 cases of verbal abuse of DHB staff have been reported between January and July this year.

It adds up to a total of 62 cases of abuse, and over half of those (36) were directed at registered nurses.

The number has steadily been increasing over the past four years, with 39 in 2015, 25 in 2016 and 51 in 2017.

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Care associates were often second in the firing line, with seven instances of abuse reported this year, compared with four in 2017.

Abuse towards reception staff also increased, as four incidents were reported in the first six months of this year.

In 2017 there were two assaults to receptionists reported.

During the past four years, abuse statistics towards doctors remained on par, with one incident reported in the first six months of 2018, none at all in 2017, two in 2016 and one in 2015.

A district health board spokesperson said staff working in areas like mental health and the Emergency Department experienced an "escalation in violent or abusive behaviour, often exacerbated by drugs".

"To help staff deal with or diffuse violent or abusive situations, the DHB has extensive training programmes in place and 24/7 support from its security guard team."

To assist staff even further with cases of abuse and assault, the DHB installed $500,000 in CCTV monitoring equipment over the past five years.

167 cameras were installed in Hawke's Bay Hospital, 16 in Central Hawke's Bay, 31 in Napier Health 31 and 31 in Wairoa Health.

The DHB said there were a number of effective staff training programmes in place to de-escalate tense situations with patients.

They included "Safe practice and effective communication", "Management of Challenging Situations" – "Zero Tolerance of Bullying," "Self Care in Healthcare and Event Reporting" and "How to report incidents, and why it's important to report them".