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Mental hospital staff attacked by patients

PUBLISHED: 17:07 21 May 2008 | UPDATED: 10:52 12 August 2010

STAFF at the world s oldest psychiatric hospital are suffering frequent attacks at the hands of patients. Police were called to

STAFF at the world's oldest psychiatric hospital are suffering frequent attacks at the hands of patients.

Police were called to 30 allegations of assault at Bethlem Royal Hospital, Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham between April 2007 and March 2008.

One in three were against staff and one 50-year-old man who was the victim of an attack suffered a seriously broken leg after a patient became violent.

Days later, another nurse was attacked with a fire extinguisher and a third suffered a broken nose from a punch in the face after asking the patient for feedback about their treatment.

A report by the Healthcare Commission and the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that 46 per cent of nurses in mental health had been assaulted and that those working with older people are most likely to be attacked.

One former patient at a mental hospital, named Mandy, blamed the increase in aggression on drugs.

In a forum post on a mental health website, she wrote: "In the old days when resources were available and staff didn't spend most of their time in the office faffing with paperwork, if someone got violent they were taken off to a secure unit for a few days and didn't come back until they were calmer and less inclined to get violent.

"So what went wrong and where? Acute units are now a lot more aggressive than they were.

"The reason for so much aggression on wards now is the rise in drug addiction and acute units being used for detox, sneaking of drugs into wards and behaviours that go with that."

River House, the latest development to be built on the site of the hospital, opened in February this year and houses 89 patients.

The majority of patients have been involved in criminal activity with offences as serious as homicide and arson and some have come from Broadmoor, the best known of Britain's three high-security mental hospitals.

The £32 million unit, part of South London and Maudsley Trust (SLaM), has a five-metre perimeter fence, metal detectors, a search area and double locked doors to each ward.

A spokesman from SLaM said they had high staff to patient ratios, adding: "We operate a zero tolerance policy to both drugs and violence. In cases where a person is suspected of being in possession of drugs staff will conduct a formal room and body search.

"If staff have concerns about anyone entering the ward they will ask to search their pockets and possessions and may refuse entry."

The number of reported assaults on staff in NHS acute and foundation trusts last year was 9,685.

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