Nurses under physical attack on mental health wards

More than half of nurses on mental health wards have been physically assaulted, new research as found.

A study of 69 NHS trusts and private hospitals in England and Wales, conducted on behalf of the Healthcare Commission by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, found that nurses working with older people are most likely to be attacked.

Two-thirds of nurses in wards for older people said they had been physically assaulted, with injury including fractures, dislocations and black eyes.

The Commission and the Royal College joined forces and called for more to be done to stop violence, particularly on wards for older people, where physical environments, activities for patients, training and staffing levels were particularly poor.

Health secretary Alan Johnson told delegates at Labour Party Conference last year that tougher action would be taken against people abusing NHS staff.

The health watchdog called for a review on the provision of training relating to managing violence. The survey found that nurses on wards for older people were less likely to receive training, with 66% reporting they had been trained to manage incidents, compared to 75% of nurses on working-age wards.

Nearly four in 10 nurses did not feel that the ratio of staff on the wards was appropriate to the needs of their patients.

Anna Walker, chief executive of the Healthcare Commission, said the survey revealed worrying levels of violence against nursing staff in mental health units. “Services need to concentrate on giving people meaningful activities in an environment that is designed to ensure that patients, staff and visitors are as safe as possible.

“They should ensure that staff have the proper training and skills and that patients get good continuity of care, without the overuse of bank and agency staff. Finally, they should have proper systems to report and manage incidents when they do happen,” Walker said.

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