Healthcare Commission: Half of mental health nurses assaulted

Almost half of nurses in mental health wards said they were assaulted in 2006-7, while 72% said they had been threatened or made to feel unsafe, the Healthcare Commission reported today.

In its annual report to parliament, the commission trailed findings from a national audit of violence for in-patient mental health services, which found that almost two-thirds of nurses on older people’s wards had been assaulted by patients. Overall 18% of patients had been assaulted and 34% had been made to feel unsafe.

The commission said it found “an unacceptable level of violence” on older people’s wards, with nursing staff bearing the brunt and many feeling inadequately supported by senior management. 

It added: “Their work was often made more difficult by having to provide care in unsuitable environments, staff shortages and lack of access to training.”

It said these problems were compounded by the increasingly complex mix of patients on older people’s wards, such as the combination of people with dementia and those with functional mental disorders.

The Healthcare Commission said that, overall, support for patients and visitors in mental health wards, in relation to violent incidents, was generally poor, with some less serious incidents going unreported.

However, it added that respondents were more positive about the way violence was dealt with, compared to a previous audit in 2004. In the latest audit, 85% of nurses felt patient violence towards staff was dealt with well, while 81% of patients felt violence between patients was well dealt with, up from 76%. 

The audit is due for publication this month or in January 2008.

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