Patients who are racist, sexist or violent can be refused NHS treatment from April.

In two months' time, anyone who inflicts abuse on NHS staff could be barred from receiving care, except in the case of emergencies.

Before the changes come into force staff could only refuse care to people who were aggressive or violent.

The introduction of sexism and racism to the causes for denial comes as new figures show a sharp increase in forms of discrimination.

In the past five years the percentage of NHS workers who have experienced some form of discrimination rose by a quarter, from 5.8% to 7.2%.

Of the 569,000 staff surveyed, 40,000 workers had had a protected characteristic targeted.

Discrimination faced by NHS staff has risen in recent years
Discrimination faced by NHS staff has risen in recent years

In total, 28.5 per cent said they had experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, relatives or members of the public, with 15 per cent experiencing physical violence.

Of those who had been discriminated against, half said it was linked to their ethnic background.

More than one in five faced discrimination based on their gender and five percent were targeted for their sexual orientation.

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said: " While teams across the country are under real pressure, NHS staff consistently go the extra mile for patients.

"So as a country we need to show the same commitment to them, which is why we are determined to clamp down on abuse and aggression in all its forms.”

On a more positive note, staff morale has improved across the NHS.

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Almost 75 percent of staff said they were enthusiastic about their work and 71 percent saying they would be happy for relatives to be treated by their employer, if they needed treatment.

Staff this year are more likely to report that their manager encourages them at work, strains on working relationships have reduced, and staff are less likely to want to leave their organisation compared to 2018.

Prerana Issar, chief people officer for the NHS said: “Taking care of and valuing our staff is at the heart of our ambition to make the NHS the best place to work, so I am delighted that managers are increasingly taking an active interest in the health and wellbeing of their teams.

“Creating a healthy, inclusive and compassionate culture is paramount to delivering the care patients expect.

“It is not acceptable that our NHS people experience any form of discrimination from patients or the public at work. Our People Plan will set out what colleagues can expect from the NHS as a modern employer.”