Most healthcare assistants have suffered violence or aggression in their jobs, sometimes being threatened with a weapon, according to a "shocking" new study.
Unison said a survey of 1,200 staff in the sector showed that two fifths had considered leaving the profession over the past year. Virtually all those polled said staffing levels had become insufficient over the past year as a result of Government spending cuts.
More than 70% had been the victim of aggression or violence.
Christina McAnea, Unison's head of health, said: "This survey illustrates the sometimes grim reality for healthcare assistants and assistant practitioners, whose already challenging job is made harder by inadequate staffing and the threat of aggression and violence.
"They provide a fundamental care to some of the most vulnerable patients, yet what we are seeing is that they do not feel valued by their employers, and even less so by the Government, whose cuts agenda is placing them, and professionals across the health service, under enormous pressure.
"When four in 10 HCAs are considering leaving the profession, something is very wrong. This survey is demonstrating the real impact of Government cuts - demoralised staff who are trying to deliver the best possible care they can in ever more difficult circumstances.
"It is time for the Government to think again about the damage that its demand for £20 billion in so-called efficiency savings is having on the NHS. Cuts aren't working, and if these vital professionals are depleted even more, the impact on patient care will be enormous."
The survey was published at Unison's annual healthcare seminar, in Glasgow.
Health Minister Anna Soubry said: "It is simply wrong to suggest we have cut NHS funding. We are investing an extra £12.5 billion into the health services by 2015. Violence and aggression towards NHS staff is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Staff should be able to carry out their work without fear of violence.
"The local NHS is working with police to clamp down on this type of behaviour and ensure that the NHS is a safe place to work. The NHS constitution puts violence against staff as a key issue, as set out earlier this month."