March 9, 2015

Mandatory Reporting in Mental Health Wards to Tackle Violence Against Nurses 

Mental health services will have to report all violent incidents and a state-wide audit will check facilities are safe in a Labor government plan to curb attacks on staff.

After numerous reports of staff being physically assaulted, verbally abused and even hospitalised on the job, Labor says it will tackle the ongoing problem of violence in the mental health system. Nurses say the move is long overdue.

Joint research between the union and Melbourne University suggests about 34 per cent of the mental health workforce – about 1800 staff – are physically assaulted every year. Overall, 83 per cent of mental health workers were victims of a form of abuse or violence, while 81 per cent were verbally assaulted.

The policy will require services and boards to report every critical incident in a psychiatric unit or mental health ward, and make that information publicly available.

Each facility will be checked for adequate safety features, sensory rooms and single-sex areas, and a $10-million fund will help improve services that are not up to scratch.

But experts warn the figures are the tip of the iceberg because of under-reporting across the system. For instance, some hospitals may not use a "code grey" system, which means certain cases won't be reported. Others may report cases as clinical incidents rather than occupational violence and aggression, which mean they are also not recorded properly.

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