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Abuse, aggression and patient safety

Patients with mental health issues and learning difficulties are amongst the most vulnerable patients to care for. They can also be challenging and exhibit abusive or aggressive behaviour.


Studies of patient safety incidents in mental health settings have highlighted that violence and aggression incidents disproportionately affect mental health patients.


Violence and aggression in mental health units is a complex issue with a variety of antecedents, behaviours and consequences. Violence is a major concern for staff and patients. In particular, service users often feel unsafe on wards, yet the purpose of inpatient care is to provide a safe, therapeutic environment.


In 2006, the National Reporting and Learning Service reported on patient safety in mental health settings in its publication ‘With safety in mind’, which analyses incidents of disruptive or aggressive behaviour.


Resources on the theme of abuse and aggression are listed below.