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Half of mental health nurses assaulted

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More than half of nurses on mental health wards have been physically assaulted while at work, healthcare watchdogs have warned.

This figure rises to three-quarters for nurses working on wards looking after patients with dementia, according to an audit by the Royal College of Psychiatrists carried out on behalf of the Healthcare Commission. They said the effect on nurses could be ‘constant and intolerable’.

The audit looked at 211 mental health units, both NHS and independent sector, in England and Wales.

Anna Walker, chief executive of the Healthcare Commission, said: ‘This audit reveals worrying levels of violence against nursing staff in mental health units, particularly on wards for people with disorders such as dementia.

‘It is a testament to the commitment and compassion of nurses that such a high number of patients in their wards say they are treated with dignity and respect,’ she said.

Kevin Coyne, head of health at Unite, which includes the Mental Health Nurses Association, said the union would be calling on ministers to take urgent measures to reduce the level of violence on mental health wards.

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