20% of mental health professionals are not trained to deal with violent patients

One in five mental health professionals are not trained to deal with violent and aggressive patients, it has emerged.

A new European study led by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland also found there was a lack of clarity on violence management in psychiatric hospitals.

It reveals that just 30% of mental health professionals received training in the past year, while just 9% stated that it had been over five years since they last received any relevant training.

Worryingly, 37% of mental health professionals in Ireland reported that it had been more than five years since they received violence management training, which is way above the European average.

The study, published in the journal, BMC Health Services Research, was based on a survey of 2,800 healthcare professionals from 17 countries across Europe, including Ireland. It also emerged that Europe has an ageing, mental healthcare workforce, with more than one in five (21%) qualified for more than 25 years. The figure in Ireland is higher, at 34%.

Professor of nursing at RCSI and lead author, Prof Seamus Cowman, said violent episodes and staff assaults have escalated in mental health services across Europe: “In agriculture, the use of land and the welfare of farm animals and fishing is regulated. In mental health services, a vital and controversial human intervention, such as coercion and violence management, is devoid of EU direction on best practice.”

The study points out that language differences in Europe may have contributed to insular thinking but stresses that this must not be seen as a barrier to sharing best practice.

Ireland has a higher training level than other European countries. Just one in 10 (10.3%) have never received training.

“Private companies provide training in a lot of Irish hospitals, but the question I would raise is how successful in reducing violent episodes. The issue is about the quality of the training provided and whether it is fit for purpose,” said Prof Cowman.

The study also highlights that mental health professionals must be able to meet the needs of traumatised migrants, now living in Europe, who may suffer from mental health difficulties.

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