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More than 12 mental health workers in Sussex attacked every week
More than a dozen workers at a Sussex mental health trust are attacked every week.
The figure emerged as unions call for tougher action to be taken against patients who assault staff.
Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust,which provides mental health, substance abuse and learning disability services across the county reported 662 physical assaults on its workers over a one year period.
Unison has called on the trust to work closely with Sussex Police to ensure patients who are aware of their actions are prosecuted, whenever appropriate.
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It says there have been “too many” occasions where police issue a caution which, makes it difficult, if not impossible, to take any further action against the individual.
However they have stressed this is not a witch hunt against people with mental health problems.
Unison branch secretary Peter Atkinson said: “It’s obviously not appropriate if the person is floridly psychotic or suffering from dementia, but we see too many occasions where people know what they are doing and just lose their temper or self-control.
“That is not acceptable in general society and we should be not be treating our service users any differently.”
Unison has asked the trust to review its policy on how it deals with assaults on staff and welcomed new national guidance on helping NHS staff deal with challenging behaviour when it is a symptom of a patient’s illness or condition.
A trust spokesman said: “The health, wellbeing and safety of patients, families, carers and staff is a priority for us.
“We work very closely with the police and support them in seeking prosecutions where this is appropriate.”
Sussex Police Superintendent Julia Pope said: “Considering the number of people who use health services every year, the number of calls we receive to deal with any crimes, including assaults on staff, is very low, but any report is responded to promptly and treated seriously.
“If there is evidence to support prosecution of offenders we will work with health colleagues to make sure that the facts are put before a court.
“Any decision on the course of action will take into account the circumstances of the incident and obviously those of the alleged offender, but it is important that the safety of other users of health facilities and those who staff them is protected.”
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