Understanding the Human and Financial Costs of Hospital Staff Assaults

September 29, 2023
Adam Mellor
Doctors and nurses standing and talking in a hallway

Challenges Faced by Healthcare Workers

It is well publicised that assaults on staff in hospital settings are increasing rapidly each year. According to UNISON, 75,000 people in the NHS experience physical violence and aggression from patients and the public each year.

A 2022 YouGov survey in the UK reported that 67% of healthcare workers experienced physical abuse in the last 12 months, while 20% reported being subject to violence once a week. This can lead to staff members feeling unsafe at work, sometimes being injured, which can lead to additional concerns such as recruitment and retention of competent care staff.

The Real Cost of Healthcare Staff Assaults

Recent investigations, such as the case of a mental health hospital in South Wales, demonstrate that there is not only a human cost to patients and staff, but potentially a significant financial liability too.

“Over a three-year period between 2014 and 2017, there were incidents of violence and aggression towards both care staff and patients, resulting in serious injuries, including loss of consciousness and permanent scarring”.

In addition to the serious physical and psychological injuries occurring, the two companies involved in providing care and treatment were fined a combined total of more than £400,000 by Cardiff Magistrates Court in July 2023.

The Role of De-Escalation Techniques in Preventing Incidents

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incidents and reported that there was a lack of preventative measures in place including risk assessments and a suitable environment to encourage de-escalation.

HSE Principal Inspector Anne Marie Orrells concluded that “care providers should have adequate arrangements to effectively plan and organise preventative measures to prevent violence towards staff and other patients.”

There was also an apparent lack of measures to support the staff team to manage a potential crisis when there was imminent and immediate risk of harm. A quote from the HSE states ‘staff were not provided with adequate information or training to cope with patients with aggressive traits”.

Effective Training for Dealing with Challenging Patients

CPI programmes explore the concepts of behaviour using a trauma informed and person-centred approach. The focus is to use primary approaches of de-escalation to recognise behaviours at an early stage and to support patient behaviour using proactive, non-restrictive strategies.

Customers who use CPI as a training provider have recorded successful outcomes in reducing instances of violent and aggressive behaviours. 83% of organisations have seen a reduction in crisis behaviour and 94% of customers recorded improved skills and confidence. Our customers have seen significant improvement in staff de-escalation skills and overall safety across healthcare, social care, and education.

Jennifer Waldron a Lecturer in Nurse Education Edge Hill University in Lancashire commented

“CPI’s training was different. It provides a much more consistent and realistic approach and it’s become an invaluable part of our programmes at Edge Hill. The training does meet the NHS’s conflict resolution training requirements, and it adds to it with practical solutions. All with a person-centred approach and a focus on de-escalation techniques to keep any restrictive interventions to an absolute minimum.”

By providing sufficient training, which is then integrated into the value and culture of your workplace, organisations can significantly improve confidence when managing potential conflict situations.

Building Staff Confidence in De-Escalation

Staff confidence is important, because the benefits provide improved safety in the care setting and a higher retention of competent staff members.

“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” — Henry Ford.

Successful training and development of staff teams can reduce the risk of penalties
such as the £400,000 fine given to the organisations involved the hospital in South Wales.

For more information on how CPI can support your organisation’s training needs complete the ‘Schedule Consultation’ form or call 0161 929 9777.

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Attacks on NHS staff rising at an alarming rate - Insights - Facit Data Systems
Aberdare's Priory Hospital firms fined £400k after workers assaulted - BBC News
Companies fined more than £400,000 after hospital staff violently attacked by patients | HSE Media Centre
HSE: Information about health and safety at work.