Aims and objectives. The comparative element of this study is to describe safety and security measures in psychiatric acute admission wards in the Republic of Ireland and London; to describe differences and similarities in terms of safety and security patterns in the Republic of Ireland and London; and to make recommendations on safety and security to mental health services management and psychiatric nurses.
Background. Violence is a serious problem in psychiatric services and staff experience significant psychological reactions to being assaulted. Health and Safety Authorities in the UK and Ireland have expressed concern about violence and assault in healthcare, however, there remains a lack of clarity on matters of procedure and policy pertaining to safety and security in psychiatric hospitals.
Design. A descriptive survey research design was employed.
Methods. Questionnaires were circulated to all acute wards in London and in Ireland and the resulting data compared.
Results. A total of 124 psychiatric wards from London and 43 wards from Ireland were included in this study and response rates of 70% (London) and 86% (Ireland) were obtained. Differences and similarities in safety and security practices were identified between London and Ireland, with Irish wards having generally higher and more intensive levels of security.
Conclusions. There is a lack of coherent policy and procedure in safety and security measures across psychiatric acute admission wards in the Republic of Ireland and London. Given the trends in European Union (EU) regulation, there is a strong argument for the publication of acceptable minimum guidelines for safety and security in mental health services across the EU.
Relevance to clinical practice. There must be a concerted effort to ensure that all policy and procedure in safety and security is founded on evidence and best practice. Mental health managers must establish a review of work safety and security procedures and practices. Risk assessment and environmental audits of all mental health clinical environments should be mandatory.