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Aggression in specialist secure and forensic inpatient mental health care: incidence across care pathways

Geoff Dickens (Head of Nursing Research at St Andrew's Academic Centre, St Andrew's Healthcare, Northampton, UK and Senior Lecturer at the University of Northampton, Northampton, UK)
Marco Picchioni (Clinical Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at St Andrew's Academic Centre, St Andrew's Healthcare, Northampton, UK)
Clive Long (Head of Psychological Therapies at St Andrew's Academic Centre, St Andrew's Healthcare, Northampton, UK and Visiting Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK)

The Journal of Forensic Practice

ISSN: 2050-8794

Article publication date: 2 August 2013

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe how aggressive and violent incidents differ across specialist gender, security and mental health/learning disability pathways in specialist secure care.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper uses a retrospective survey of routinely collected incident data from one 207‐bed UK independent sector provider of specialist medium and low secure mental health care for male and female adults with primary diagnosis of mental illness or intellectual disability.

Findings

In total, 3,133 incidents involving 184/373 (49.3 per cent) patients were recorded (68.2 per cent other‐directed aggression, 31.8 per cent self‐harm). Most incidents occurred in the medium secure wards but more than half of the most severely rated self‐harm incidents occurred in low security. Men were disproportionately involved in incidents, but a small number of women were persistently involved in multiple acts. Incidents were most common in the intellectual disability pathway.

Research limitations/implications

Incidents, especially those of lower severity, can be under‐reported in routine practice. Information about incident severity was limited.

Practical implications

Aggressive incidents do not occur homogenously across forensic and secure mental health services but differ substantially in their frequency and nature across security levels, and gender and mental health/intellectual disability pathways. Different approaches to training and management are required to ensure appropriate prevention and intervention. Future practice should draw on emerging theories of differential susceptibility.

Originality/value

This paper extends current knowledge about how incidents of violence and aggression differ across secure settings.

Keywords

Citation

Dickens, G., Picchioni, M. and Long, C. (2013), "Aggression in specialist secure and forensic inpatient mental health care: incidence across care pathways", The Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 206-217. https://doi.org/10.1108/JFP-09-2012-0017

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited