Physical assaults against hospital staff at Epsom and St Helier Hospitals have increased, according to new figures.

Last year there were 117 recorded assaults on doctors, nurses, midwives and other staff between April 2011 to March 2012 compared to 110 the previous year.

Neil Guite, a matron for the A&E department at St Helier Hospital, said: "Over the years I have seen staff punched and kicked and they always remain so incredibly calm under this sort of intimidation and pressure. 

"Then there is all the verbal abuse that occurs. This happens more often than physical assaults but can be just as upsetting and intimidating for members of staff."

 More than 50 ‘zero tolerance’ letters were sent to people who had abused staff across the hospitals last year.

Matthew Hopkins, chief executive, said one assault was one too many and should not happen at all.

He said: "We will continue to support our staff and do all we can to ensure they feel safe at all times. 

"This includes making sure staff are trained to deal with difficult situations and by working with the police to ensure offenders are prosecuted.

"I hope that by publishing these figures we remind people just how unacceptable it is to abuse - verbally or physically - a member of our staff".