Violent attacks against staff at Airedale Hospital are in the rise, it has been revealed.

Forty-nine incidents of violence with 27 resulting in injury were recorded in 2011/12, according to the latest available figures.

Over a three-year period, the total has now exceeded 140.

Airedale NHS Foundation Trust has now set up a special staff support group to investigate reported incidents of physical or verbal abuse – by patients, carers or other members of the public.

A spokesman said: “The number of incidents of violence and aggression against our staff has risen very slightly, but this could be because of better reporting systems that are now in place for both verbal and physical abuse.”

The latest yearly figure compares with 46 incidents in 2010/11, which included 24 resulting in injury.

Keighley MP Kris Hopkins said anyone who attacked a hospital employee should face the full force of the law.

Mr Hopkins said: “The primary purpose of a hospital is to care for people. The fact that medical professionals, who are carrying out their duties to patients, can become victims of violent attack is outrageous and the perpetrators must face the full rigours of the law.”

The new staff support group’s remit will include looking at “hotspots” around the hospital such as accident and emergency, where abuse of staff is more common.

The body will consider whether more training is needed for employees who care for patients with health conditions that may lead to abusive or violent behaviour.

This issue was discussed at the latest meeting of Airedale’s board of directors. Non-executive director David Adam said: “We’re not the police force on a Friday night, we’re a hospital and our staff should not be subjected to this. We must not become inured to it.”

Ann Wagner, director of strategy and business development, said: “As a board we take this very seriously and we’re putting in place the right level of support. We’re not desensitised to it, and we will take a zero tolerance approach.”

Speaking after the meeting Rob Dearden, director of nursing at Airedale, said: “Any violence or abuse towards our staff is unacceptable. Staff need to be able to go about their jobs and provide excellent care without the fear of being abused, and in the knowledge that they have the skills, training and support to deal with situations when they do occur.

“We work closely with our security partners to ensure support is provided to staff in areas across the hospital where patients or the public can become physically abusive.”