Assaults on North Wales mental health staff halved

March 13, 2019

The number of assaults by mental health patients on NHS staff in North Wales has halved in the last five years

Assaults on staff working in Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s Mental Health & Learning Disability services reduced by 50% between 2013-14 and 2017-18, with a 16% reduction achieved in the last year.

The figures represent a stark contrast with the NHS in England, where the results of the latest NHS staff survey shows that violence against staff has reached a five year high. 

The health board say the reduction is a direct result of its investment in a team of specialist nurses who work proactively with frontline staff, carers and patients to improve standards of care.

BCUHB is one of only a small number of NHS providers in the UK to employ such a team on a full time basis.

Central to the Positive Interventions Clinical Support Service’s (PICSS) approach is helping frontline staff meet the needs of their patients in the least restrictive way. The four strong team help to establish person-centred behaviour support plans for at risk patients, which take account of their individual wishes and needs as well as encouraging the involvement of relatives and carers.

They also deliver violence and aggression prevention training to all frontline staff, which gives them the skills to safely deescalate difficult situations and recognise triggers which can lead to patients exhibiting challenging behaviour.

BCUHB has recently worked with other health boards in Wales to develop a national training package which is aimed at helping frontline staff deliver truly person-centred care. The training has been influenced by many of the best practice examples from mental health units in North Wales.

BCUHB’s Positive Interventions Clinical Support Service is led by Gareth Owen and Lisa Powell, Registered Mental Health Nurses who each have over 34 years’ experience working in acute psychiatric care.

Gareth said: “When people are acutely unwell they are potentially very vulnerable and it can be a scary and frustrating time for them. Only a very small number of admissions result in violent or aggressive behaviour, and the driving force behind the vast majority of assaults on staff is unmet needs – whether that’s a need to feel safe, have their individual wishes respected, or have their strengths valued. The better we can understand and meet our patients’ needs the better their outcomes will be.

“We’re determined to build on the progress we’ve made in recent years because one assault on a member of our staff is one too many. We were first established as a Violence & Aggression Prevention Team, but with investment from the health board we have evolved to become much more proactive in promoting truly person centred care. We have recently changed the name of the team to better reflect the values of compassionate, dignified and respectful care which are at the heart of our mission.”

Steve Forsyth, BCUHB’s Director of Nursing for Mental Health & Learning Disabilities said the significant reduction in assaults was testament to the dedication and professionalism of the PICSS team and frontline staff.

“The PICSS team’s work is a wonderful example of the ‘TODAYICAN’ approach which we have adopted across our mental health and learning disability services, which aims to value and make the most of the time that our patients spend with us, in order to deliver the very best outcomes, These figures demonstrate just what a fantastic job our staff do in providing truly person-centred care with the support of the PICSS team.”