Unison's head of nursing Gail Adams has described yesterday's Healthcare Commission report on assaults on mental health ward nurses as 'shocking reading'.

"It is clear that more needs to be done to protect staff, and risk assessments, training and a good skills mix are the key to achieving that," Ms Adams said.

"Adequate staffing levels and a good skills mix will also encourage an air of calmness on a ward. Where there are staff shortages, or a lot of agency and bank staff, the ward can become more frantic and patients will pick up on that."

Steve Shrubb, director of the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network said: “Clearly lessons are being learned dealing with violent incidents involving adults of working age. The challenge that our members are committed to is taking this work over to older people’s wards and dementia sufferers.”

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