Mental health staff in the UK are working in a “powder keg” environment, as assaults by patients soar, an investigation by the BBC concluded in October.
Figures obtained by the programme 5 Live Investigates revealed there were more than 42,000 reported attacks on staff in 2016-17 in the mental health trusts who responded.
The figure was more than a quarter higher than for the corresponding trusts four years earlier, the BBC added.
Nearly two-thirds of UK mental health trusts provided data under a Freedom of Information request, which revealed assaults increased from 33,620 in 2012-13 to 42,692 last year. This included a healthcare assistant who was stabbed to death and a worker who had part of their thumb bitten off.
Separate BBC Freedom of Information request figures have revealed the number of NHS mental health staff who have taken sick leave because of their own mental health issues has risen by 22% in the past five years. Those taking long-term leave of a month or more rose from 7,580 in 2012-13 to 9,285 in 2016-17, it found.
The figures have come as the Centre for Mental Health has called for a “radical reform” of mental health services, amid a “shrinking workforce, growing expectations and exhausting demands” all putting staff under intense pressure.
More widely, latest figures from NHS Digital have shown that NHS staff sickness absence remained the same in May 2017 as in May 2016, at 3.84%. This was lower than in May 2015, when the rate stood at 3.90%.
Nevertheless, the Royal College of Nursing has urged hospitals and healthcare providers to examine whether they have enough staff to deliver safe patient care this winter.
A survey of more than 30,000 members painted a picture of staff stretched to the limit and compromised patient care, with colleagues burning out and becoming sick themselves, it argued.