Cuts to mental health leave
staff facing violence and aggression in the North West
REDUCED funding to mental health
services across the UK and in the North West is leaving staff vulnerable to
violence and aggression from patients, and means they cannot provide the level
of care needed, according to UNISON.
The report, Struggling to Cope, paints a bleak picture of the country's mental
health services; for both staff and users. It is based on a survey of over
1,000 mental health employees across the UK, and 141 who answered worked in the
North West. They work in a range of roles; with children and adults in
Hospitals, in secure units and out in the community.
UNISON told the media this week that they found out the:- "52% said they had been on the receiving end of violent attacks in the last year.
45% said they had witnessed violent incidents involving patients attacking their
colleagues." Comments from some staff given to the Trade Union suggest that:-
"violent or aggressive incidents happen on a daily basis", and that they
"go with the job."
1 worker described to UNISON they the worker had been:- "repeatedly
punched to the floor", while
others spoke of "attempted strangulation," or being head butted, spat on,
kicked and bitten.
"While the majority (89%) felt they had the knowledge and training to carry out
their work safely, 38% said they had seen an increase in violent incidents in
Mental health workers blamed staff shortages (85%) and the overuse of agency
staff (46%) as the main reasons behind the rise in violent attacks. 62% felt
that service users were increasingly reaching crisis point before accessing
services because of a lack of staff, funding and beds. Worryingly, cuts also
mean that 39% of staff are now having to work alone (when they did not
previously), making them more at risk of being abused..." a
representative from UNISON commented.
the report went on to say that:- "60% of staff responding felt they were unable to support the people that they
care for properly, and almost all (93%) reported feeling stressed because of
UNISON also added that the survey also reveals that 22% of the mental health staff questioned did not
report violent incidents when they happened. Of those that did, 49% did not feel
supported by their managers afterwards.
UNISON says:- "It's hardly surprising that 30% are thinking about leaving their
jobs in mental health, and 17% are actively planning on doing so."
Adding that:- "The main reasons cited by staff were the impact of their work on their own
mental health and well being (33%), the fact that they'd not had a decent pay
rise for 7 years (22%), and the poor state of the mental health sector (17%)."
UNISON North West lead for health Amy Barringer said:- "These findings
highlight a range of deep rooted issues in mental health services that need to
be addressed urgently. The lack of prevention and absence of early
intervention services mean that by the time many people access help, they are
already very ill and at crisis point. Severe staff shortages mean there
are fewer mental health employees to deal with a rising number of users with
complex needs. As a result, many staff are having to work alone, making violent
attacks more likely. It's no wonder so many are planning on leaving for less
stressful, safer work elsewhere."
Last year, NHS England's 5 Year Forward View, on mental health said there was
a need for a:- "strengthened approach to prevention and early
and "good practice in the management of mental health in the workplace"
to support staff. UNISON's survey suggests this is still not happening.
UNISON is calling on the Government to ensure staff and patients are kept safe
by properly funding mental health services, and that staffing levels are
properly reviewed with the introduction of safe minimum patient to staff ratios. Do you work
within this field or have any of these
issues affected you or anyone you know. We would like to hear from you and
also if you would like us to forward any information on to UNISON in relation to
this issue, please send us an email:-
News24@SouthportReporter.com and let