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High nurse assault risk in elderly mental health

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Two thirds of nurses on older people’s mental health wards say they have been physically attacked in the last 12 months, according to latest figures.

The Healthcare Commission’s first ever national audit focusing specifically on violence in older people’s mental health services is due to be published later this month. Carried out for the watchdog by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, it draws on data from 215 mental health units – both NHS and independent sector – in England and Wales.

Early results from the audit were included in the commission’s State of Healthcare report, published last week. It showed that 64% of nurses in older people’s mental health wards reported having been physically assaulted.

NT has exclusively seen the full report on older people’s services, which also reveals 43% of nurses had no access to personal safety alarms, 45% of interview rooms lacked accessible alarms and sight lines were impeded in 69% of patient environments. A further 39% of nurses questioned in the audit said there were insufficient staffing levels on shifts and 50% added that gender mix was wrong.

One nurse said: ‘I expected to be assaulted on every shift I worked. I was punched frequently, kicked often. I was scratched, squeezed, jumped out on, hit with a fire extinguisher, had furniture thrown at me, including a wheelchair.’

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