DoH insists staff safety "utmost importance"

Half of mental health nurses report abuse
Half of mental health nurses report abuse

The government has insisted the safety of mental health staff is of "paramount importance", after data showed nearly half have been subject to physical attacks.

A survey conducted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists for the Healthcare Commission found 46 per cent of staff on adult wards had been assaulted.

Notably this rose to 64 per cent of staff working on wards for older people suffering from conditions such as dementia.

The Healthcare Commission said the impact of this on staff was "constant and intolerable" and improvements were needed, especially on wards for older people.

Steve Shrubb, director of the NHS Confederation's Mental Health Network, agreed the violence was unacceptable and should not be seen as simply part of the job.

Health and social care minister Ivan Lewis insisted: "The safety of frontline NHS staff must always be of paramount importance."

He said the government had already launched in 2005 a national training programme in non-physical prevention and safe management of violence for mental health and learning disability staff.

The national dementia strategy, currently being developed with the Alzheimer's Society, would go further towards reducing violence, Mr Lewis added.

But Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said mental healthcare was still a "Cinderella service," condemning the "ongoing scandal" of poor conditions for staff and patients.

Mr Lamb said: "Violence and intimidation would simply not be tolerated to this degree in other part of the NHS.

"It is clear that NHS staff are not being provided with the protection that is vital for them to do their jobs. Equally, patients are not being treated in the right conditions to keep their disorder under control."

Dr Paul Lelliott from the Royal College of Psychiatrists said workers on mental health wards were the unsung heroes of mental healthcare.

He continued: "Their every working day is a challenge and this audit once again highlights the danger to their personal safety. Despite this, ward staff continue to provide care to the most severely ill people in a professional and compassionate manner."


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