Three-quarters of mental health nurses assaulted, Nurses Organisation survey finds

Seventy-six percent of mental health nurses have been threatened and more than 40 percent have been assaulted within a single year, according to a just-released survey.

In one incident described by a nurse, seven staff needed to be treated at the emergency department - some for serious injuries - after being attacked by a patient.

The Nurses Organisation, which carried out the survey of 400 nurses in 2023, said it was a symptom of the deteriorating state of the sector.

Delegate Grant Brookes, a Wellington-based mental health nurse, said many were burned out and considering leaving.

"Many mental health nurses fear for their safety.

"Violence and aggression towards staff and patients alike is increasingly common, with nurses being assaulted daily across Aotearoa.

"This is exacerbated by understaffing and a lack of accessible security and support.

"We have seen the demand for mental health services grow considerably in recent years."

Much of the violence was due to intoxication, withdrawal, or drug-induced psychosis from methamphetamine, he said.

Patients with very different needs were being put together in "inadequate facilities" in hospitals, leading to significant safety risks.

Furthermore, people were not getting the care they needed in the community, he said.

NZNO chief executive Paul Goulter was "disappointed" to see the lack of funding set aside for health over the next four years in Budget 2024.

"It's barely enough to keep the lights on. There's no commitment to meaningful investment to help New Zealanders with mental illness or addiction issues or the nurses who care for them....

"No nurse should be coming to work with an expectation there's a high likelihood of being assaulted that day."

Health New Zealand has been approached for comment.