THEY care for us when we are at our most vulnerable.

Yet, shock figures, revealed by the Evening Times today, show nurses, doctors and other NHS staff are enduring increasing violence at the hands of the very people they are trying to help.

Physical attacks on staff in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area have soared by an incredible 80% over the past three years.

Almost 4,500 workers were assaulted last year - 12 a day. Police are being called out to intervene, hundreds of times every year.

It is thought that better systems of reporting and greater awareness of what constitutes abuse of staff, may have contributed, in part, to the rise.

However, the very fact that the attacks are taking place in the first place is unacceptable.

Labour MSP, Dr Richard Simpson has previously said that patients who lash out at staff must be properly prosecuted and the government says more people are facing the strongest penalties for such abuse.

Union officials say patients can lash out when they are given bad news.

Frustration over waiting times and fewer frontline staff due to budget cuts has also been cited as a possible reason for the surge in violent behaviour.

However, no one should have to suffer abuse in their place of work, not least those who are saving lives, under increasingly difficult circumstances.