THE number of assaults by mental health patients on NHS staff in North Wales, including those working on the Ablett Unit at Glan Clwyd Hospital, has halved in the last five years.

Assaults on staff working in Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s (BCUHB) Mental Health and Learning Disability services reduced by 50 per cent between 2013-14 and 2017-18, with a 16 per cent reduction achieved in the last year.

The figures represent a stark contrast with the NHS in England, where the results of the latest NHS staff survey shows that violence against staff has reached a five year high.

Betsi Cadwaladr say the reduction, which also takes in assaults at Bryn Hesketh Unit in Colwyn Bay, are as a result of its investment in a Positive Interventions Clinical Support Service (PICSS) of specialist nurses who work with frontline staff, carers and patients to improve standards of care.

Gareth Owen leads BCUHB’s Positive Interventions Clinical Support Service along with Lisa Powell. Both mental health nurses have more than 34 years of experience in acute psychiatric care.

Gareth said: “When people are acutely unwell they are potentially very vulnerable and it can be a scary and frustrating time for them. Only a very small number of admissions result in violent or aggressive behaviour, and the driving force behind the vast majority of assaults on staff is unmet needs – whether that’s a need to feel safe, have their individual wishes respected, or have their strengths valued. The better we can understand and meet our patients’ needs the better their outcomes will be.

“We’re determined to build on the progress we’ve made in recent years because one assault on a member of our staff is one too many.

"We were first established as a Violence and Aggression Prevention Team, but with investment from the health board we have evolved to become much more proactive in promoting truly person centred care.

"We have recently changed the name of the team to better reflect the values of compassionate, dignified and respectful care which are at the heart of our mission.”

The health board is one of the small number of NHS providers in the UK to employ such a team on a full time basis.

The PICSS is based at the Bodnant Unit in Llandudno. The four strong team help to establish person-centred behaviour support plans for at risk patients, which take account of their individual wishes and needs as well as encouraging the involvement of relatives and carers.

The team also deliver violence and aggression prevention training to all frontline staff, which gives them the skills to safely de-escalate difficult situations and recognise triggers which can lead to patients exhibiting challenging behaviour.