Staff shortages increase risk of violence

A substantial shortage of staff is leading to high levels of violence in mental health and learning disability in-patient facilities in England and Wales, according to a new report.

The national study conducted for the Healthcare Commission by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that 41% of clinical staff working in these units and nearly 80% of nursing staff have experienced violent or threatening behaviour.

This ranges from raised voices and verbal aggression to the much rarer use of a weapon to threaten or attack.

After substance abuse, the research found staffing issues to be the second most frequent trigger of violence as many units are operating with substantial staff vacancies and are overly reliant on temporary and agency staff.

The report said that experienced staff are being drawn into more prestigious community posts and in-patient units are having difficulty creating cohesive and experienced teams.

The audit recommends that the status of in-patient nursing is raised to at least that of community nursing and that training to handle violent incidents be more focused on prevention rather than management.

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