More registered nurses on mental health wards leads to greater staff safety, says new study by Birmingham City University and LSBU
10 October 2019
Increasing the number of registered nurses in a mental health setting could help to protect thousands of healthcare workers from falling victim to ‘adverse events’ such as aggression or harassment, says a new study conducted by academics at Birmingham City University and London South Bank University, published in Health Informatics, today (Wednesday 2 October).
More than 6,500 incidents of patient aggression were recorded, affecting over 12,000 staff and nearly 500 staff were victims of ‘sexual incidents’. Inappropriate behaviour was recorded 1,762 times with 4,058 members of staff listed as victims.
The research data was supplied by NHS mental healthcare provider, the Mersey Care Foundation Trust.
The report shows:
where clinical demand is inherently low, for example, on a ward during the night shift, there is a greater risk of adverse events being reported;
low staffing levels lead directly to an increased risk of staff being exposed to incidences of violence or aggression, but this tendency can be counteracted by increasing the number of registered nurses on a ward, above what is ‘clinically required’.
The study assesses the relationship between the effectiveness of ‘clinically required’ staffing levels and efficient reporting of adverse events affecting staff in a mental health setting, to better understand and characterise what constitutes a healthy safety culture.
The findings in this report go some way towards defining what is meant by ‘a good reporting culture’ in healthcare - typically characterised by a large proportion of ‘no harm’ events.
Dr Sarah-Jane Jones, Senior Research Fellow in Health and Social Care at Birmingham City University and author of this report, said: “These findings are the first to directly address the safety of healthcare staff, using data in this way and they offer an opportunity for a tightening up of policy governing safety culture and workforce safety and retention.”
Professor Alison Leary, Chair of Healthcare Workforce modelling at LSBU and co-author of the report, said: “This research work adds to a very limited body of knowledge of both staff safety and safety in mental health settings. Safety in mental health settings, in both the acute sector and the community, is under researched. Safe environments are essential for good quality care and staff retention.”
The findings will be presented in full by lead author Dr Sarah-Jane Jones, Senior Senior Research Fellow in Health and Social Care at Birmingham City University, at the Patient Safety Learning conference at the King’s Fund in London on Wednesday 2 October.