There were nearly 8,700 reports of assaults on health staff in Ireland last year.
According to Freedom of Information figures obtained by Newstalk, nearly half the victims were nurses.
In total, there were 8,667 reports of assaults on HSE staff in 2020. Some 6,900 involved direct physical attacks, while 1,707 were verbal and 60 were sexual assaults.
Of all the attacks, the 4,166 against nurses make up by far the highest amount, at over 48%.
The Deputy General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) David Hughes said it is an ongoing and serious problem.
“We are very concerned but it is not a new concern because unfortunately aggression and violence against nurses is a national and international problem in recent years in the health service,” he said.
“What is most surprising about these figures each year as they come on is that the general nurse tends to be more in line for these type of assaults.”
He said some of the assaults have been very serious.
“There are nurses who lose time because of assaults who have to go and get their injuries looked after,” he said.
“Knives have been used in some cases, I think even a gun was pulled at one stage in an area where nurses and other care staff were.
“So, they can be very violent. A lot of it is physical but the verbal abuse is quite high as well.”
The largest amount of assaults was in the Donegal/Sligo/Leitrim/Cavan/Monaghan area, with 1,028 reports last year.
The HSE says ensuring the safety of employees and service-users is a priority and training on managing violence and aggression is provided.