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Monday, 5 March, 2001, 11:45 GMT
One in five psychiatrists assaulted
patient in mental hospital
Almost one in five psychiatrists has been attacked
Nearly 20% of psychiatrists have been assaulted by patients in the past year, a survey suggests.

The study, carried out in south Wales, asked 139 psychiatrists about their experiences of violence from patients.

Dr Stephen Davies, who authored the study, found that 17% said they had been attacked at least once in the past year.

But he said: "The Health and Safety at Work Act places a responsibility on employers to identify and address hazards.

"Few assaults and even fewer threats were reported to management, making this process difficult."

A third of psychiatrists said that they had been threatened with violence by their patients.

Juniors at risk

And junior, less experienced doctors were far more likely to be attacked by patients than those with more experience.

It was suggested that this was because more experienced doctors were better at both identifying potentially hazardous situations and defusing them.

Two-thirds of the attacks were carried out by adult patients - half of the total during urgent assessments rather than planned clinic appointments.

More than half of those who attacked their psychiatrist had a known history of similar acts against doctors or nurses, while 16% of the attackers had been drinking before the assault.

He said that psychiatric staff should be trained to prepare for violence from patients, and encouraged to report incidents of violence to hospital managers.

The NHS has recently launched a "zero tolerance" policy on attacks on staff - it is estimated that more than 65,000 such attacks happen every year.

One initiative involves handing out mobile phones and pagers to staff perceived to be at risk such as community nurses, who visit patients in their own homes.

However, other research points to mental health services as being the area of medicine in which most violence against staff takes place.

On average, there are 24 attacks per 1,000 staff per month in this area, as opposed to seven per 1,000 in the acute hospital sector as a whole.

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See also:

04 Feb 00 | Health
Brain size linked to violence
17 Mar 00 | Health
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Zero tolerance for NHS violence
29 Jan 01 | Health
Attacks on health workers rise
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