As an organisation providing Challenging behaviour training courses and Physical intervention training our goal is to increase the safety of health and social care work settings. We find it troubling that a BBC investigation has revealed that Mental Health staff in the UK are facing a 25% increase in assaults by patients.

25% increase in assaults on mental health staffThe figures, obtained by the BBC’s Radio 5 live Investigation team, show there were more than 42,000 reported attacks on staff in 2016-17 across all of the mental health trusts who responded.

Nearly two-thirds of mental health trusts in the UK provided data under a Freedom of Information request, which revealed assaults increased from 33,620 in 2012-13 to 42,692 last year. A rise of more than a quarter for the corresponding trusts four years earlier.

Incidents include a healthcare assistant who was stabbed to death and a worker having part of their thumb bitten off.

There were also more than 17,000 assaults by patients on other patients in the UK last year.

Earlier in the year a separate BBC report revealed that almost 200 assaults on doctors, nurses and other NHS staff in England every day.

A survey of 114 social care and support staff by Community Care in 2010 found 90% of social workers had experienced abuse, assaults and threats. One third had been physically assaulted, and 90% had been verbally abused while on duty.

The Department of Health said it was "completely unacceptable" for NHS staff to face violence or aggression at work.

"All incidents should be reported, and we expect the NHS to work with the police to seek the strongest possible action."

SecuriCares Risk Manager Lee Hollins, “The figures are troubling, but we need to see past terms like ‘assault’, ‘aggression’ and ‘violence’. We need to view this as the manifestation of distress or of need. The prevailing view is that challenging behaviour is a form of communication. The person is trying to tell us something. There is something they need or something they wish to avoid because it is causing anxiety, distress, confusion or even pain. We need to understand what is causing these behaviours in order that we might restructure care and support with a view to eliminating the need to engage in such risky and potentially dangerous communication strategies…”

“These behaviours can very much put the patient at risk because one of the go-to options for behavioural management within some units is physical restraint. It’s ironic that would could be construed as a cry for help results in what can be punitive and harmful interventions. We have to make one fact abundantly clearing restraint doesn’t do anything to address the root causes of behaviour. It only puts patients and staff at risk..”

“According to the NHS ‘Reducing Distress’ initiative the following are potential causes of challenging behaviour:

Physical causes:

  • Delirium (a short-term confusional state or worsening of pre-existing confusion, due to a physical cause)
  • Sensory impairment
  • Pain or other unpleasant symptoms
  • Drug or alcohol withdrawal
  • After-effects of anaesthetic
  • Hunger or thirst
  • Needing the toilet
  • Poor sleep.

Cognitive causes:

  • The person’s inability to process new information, explanations or instructions
  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Poor judgment and planning
  • Difficulty with communication and inability to articulate needs
  • Memory loss
  • Disorientation
  • Reduced spatial awareness
  • Loss of insight.

Psychological/emotional causes:

  • Feelings of anxiety or powerlessness
  • Anger
  • Social isolation
  • Depression
  • Delusions, especially where people feel threatened and react defensively
  • Personality disorders which may cause difficulty anticipating the consequences of their actions and acute distress
  • Mania
  • Hallucinations
  • Suicidal tendencies.

Environmental/social causes:

  • Noise
  • Bright lights
  • Uncomfortable temperatures
  • Overcrowding
  • Overstimulation
  • Inactivity and boredom.

You need to ask yourself a question: is there anything I can do to alleviate the causes of distress? If the answer is ‘yes’, you need to do something about them. Urgently.”

SecuriCare offer a range of courses designed to enable support workers, carers and foster families to best respond to any ‘Challenging Behaviour’ that may occur. All programmes are finalised after full training needs analysis and delivered by experienced frontline practitioners. Click to see our ‘Preventing & Managing Challenging Behaviour’ Course which includes ‘Positive Behaviour Management’ techniques designed to minimise the need for any kind of restrictive intervention. Check out our ‘Physical Intervention’ courses and our online ‘Restraint Risks’ course. You can also take a look at our person centred Behaviour Planning Service.


Contact us for more information and to discuss your needs: E: or T: 01904 492442

See the full story on the BBC News website