To determine the annual rates of assaults and threats to psychiatrists, describing the situations and staff involved, using a retrospective postal questionnaire of 139 doctors working in South Wales.
Over the year, 17% of respondents reported one or more assaults (of these, 42% were assaulted more than once) and 32% reported one or more threats. The most junior senior house officers (SHOs) were significantly more likely to have experienced an incident, regardless of the individual's gender or attendance at a course in managing aggression. Most assaults (61%) were committed by patients from general adult psychiatry, and half occurred during urgent assessments. Eighteen (58%) of the assailants were known to have previously assaulted amember of staff, and this information was known to the doctor before the assault for 16 (88%). Five (16%) of the assailants had been drinking alcohol prior to the assault. Twenty-nine (78%) of the assaults were documented in the case notes and 6 (19%) were reported to management.
Some staff (in particular, inexperienced SHOs) are at greater risk, and efforts should be made to identify and help these individuals and/or grades to deal with aggression. All psychiatric staff should be trained to manage violence. Staff should be encouraged to report incidents to management, so that employers can identify and address problem areas.
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