A ground-breaking report has demonstrated an increase in violent attacks in the NHS, particularly amongst paramedics, doctors and mental health nurses. An estimated 1 in 7 healthcare professionals was assaulted in the last year, with questions raised over the processes in place which keep medics safe at work. Most of these attacks occurred in emergency service settings where tensions can be high with family members in states of shock, confusion and frustration. However, the impact of mental health nursing and the nature of patient conditions in psychiatric centres cannot be understated, with a large number of nurses experiencing attacks when caring for vulnerable patients. These changes have earlier stressed the importance of secure wards and centres for patients who are deemed vulnerable or pose a threat to staff.
With recent 2019 budget announcements posed as a “sneak peek” for the NHS’ 10 year plan with more mental health nurses, ambulances, acute wards and psychiatric assessment centres, the future looks more progressive in the government’s address of public health matters. Philip Hammond announced the news on the 31st October 2018, “I can announce that the NHS 10-year plan will include a new mental health crisis service with comprehensive mental health support available in every major A&E, a children and young people’s crisis team in every part of the country, more mental health ambulances, more safe havens in the community and a 24-hour mental health crisis hotline”.
However, it is often nurses within the mental health sector who experience abuse with frightened, vulnerable patients with varying psychiatric conditions. The current trend in abuse of hospital, community and outpatient staff in varying settings shall only increase with greater resources available to the public in the absence of adequate safeguarding of staff and colleagues. Parliament have addressed this issue in varying degrees in the past, but a new synergistic relationship between police forces, health services and the prosecution service shall ensure a swift justice to perpetrators of abuse against healthcare providers.
An interesting notion is the CQC’s decision to include NHS and private trust responses to reports of violent and abusive crimes amongst staff members in their quality assessments in clinical practice. This will further safeguard individuals and colleagues and may compromise the CQC rating of institutions which fail to adequately deal with abuse reports from their staff. This new era of “zero tolerance” approaches to violence, particularly in the NHS – will be pivotal in streamlining the delivery of care, and may aid in solidifying respect for nurses, doctors and other caregivers who commit their life to delivering healthcare at the highest of levels.
Nurses and RMN’s who provide home care however may be at risk of a niche type of workplace violence – in the care setting or patient home. It is inevitable that tensions may be high in stressful or emotionally distressing situations – but violence shall never be expected or tolerated in the delivery of care. To keep yourself and your colleagues safe, always report verbal and physical abuse to members of staff, your seniors and colleagues. A useful tool for other caregivers and those part of a care team is to utilise patient notes to detail any information of encounters or disputes that have existed between caregivers and the patient. This approach helps to inform others of potentially important information in the tolerance of patients or their families. However, if you feel uncomfortable in a situation with a patient, you should always report this to your senior colleagues or duty leader. Safeguarding yourselves, other patients and colleagues is an increasingly important aspect of community, emergency and mental health nursing, and should be one of the foremost concerns in the delivery of care.