STAFF in Welsh hospitals are facing a rising tide of violence and abuse, it was claimed last night.

The influential House of Commons Public Accounts Committee last night published a report which showed 95,000 incidents of violence towards NHS staff in the UK between 2001-2002.

The Argus has been campaigning for a 'red card' campaign to be introduced in Welsh hospitals which would see persistently aggressive patients needing non-urgent treatment being 'red carded'.

The National Assembly - which is not in favour of a 'red card' scheme - does not keep specific statistics for Wales but Health Minister Jane Hutt has said she is committed to a zero tolerance response to violence against hospital staff.

Ms Hutt said: "It is vital that violence against NHS staff is tackled. "The Assembly recommends that trusts and health boards adopt a programme of continuous improvements and follow the zero tolerance approach."

Frontline staff in Gwent hospitals say they are regularly confronted with violence and health workers' unions are concerned about the ability of the police and CPS to prosecute offenders.

A spokesman for Unison said: "There needs to be a corporate mentality towards violence in the NHS rather than leaving it to the individual."