Violent assaults on staff rise

Staff working in NHS mental health and learning difficulty services suffered 120 physical assaults a day last year, official figures reveal. The NHS Security Management Service recorded 43,097 attacks on mental health and learning difficulty staff in 2004-5.

The figure includes incidents in community and in-patient settings, and is likely to raise more questions about the safety of services following last month’s National Patient Safety Agency report, which found at least 122 sexual assaults on patients in psychiatric wards from 2003 to 2005.

Mental Health Nurses Association professional officer Brian Rogers said the numbers, revealed in parliament in June, were “staggering but sadly not that surprising”.

He said: “Most of the most experienced mental health nursing staff are tied up with administration and bureaucracy, leaving the most inexperienced and junior staff on the front line.”

Mind chief executive Paul Farmer said there was a major difference between Friday night alcohol-fuelled violence in accident and emergency wards and incidents resulting from psychosis. He feared government plans to fine people who attack NHS staff could affect people whose behaviour arose from their condition.

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