Mental health nurses feeling unsafe are being encouraged to take part in next month’s Health Quality and Safety Commission mental health and addiction staff survey.

Helen Garrick, chair of the NZNO’s mental health section, said the combination of a decade of underfunding, growing demand and increasingly complex needs means the mental health nursing workforce was at ‘breaking point’ and feeling increasingly unsafe.

She is urging members to take part in the Commission’s Ngā Poutama Oranga Hinengarosurvey of staff in district health board, non-government organisation and primary care mental health services across the country– particularly as nurses make nearly half of the mental health and addiction workforce.

The commission survey, which is not designed to be part of the government’s current Mental Health and Addictions Inquiry, is looking to set a benchmark for the current quality and safety culture in services.

Garrick said a recent survey of members – held for the current Inquiry – found member’s main concerns were high caseloads, low staffing levels, inadequate community and inpatient services and insufficient inpatient beds.

“We also call for the working environment and overall environment for inpatients to be better suited to modern-day needs and believe this will make the environment safer for all.

“The workplace nurses are coming into is too often unsafe. Over 71% of survey respondents report feeling unsafe at work, this survey will be a good way to examine this further,” she said.

The Commission survey comes at a time when both staff, service users and families have been speaking out during the current Inquiry about safety concerns with reports of assaults on both staff and patients.

Dr Clive Bensemann, clinical lead for the Commission’s Mental Health and Addictions (MHA) quality improvement programme, said the national survey would play an important part in shaping future sector improvements, with organisations’ quality and safety cultures affecting the quality of care, the experiences of consumers and families, plus health outcomes.  The survey invite is due to go out in August and can be done anonymously.

The survey will include questions about staff beliefs, attitudes and behaviours in regards to quality and safety. The aim is to establish a baseline of information about the quality and safety culture in services to inform the design of quality improvement initiatives and to monitor change with the survey to be repeated every two to three years.

Results are expected to be confirmed by late 2018, and findings will be made available on the Commission’s website, as well as provided to key stakeholders and survey participants.

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