Care firms fined following violent attacks on staff

Two firms operating in the adult social care sector have been fined more than £400,000 after “systemic failures” led to staff being injured in repeated violent attacks by patients.

Care providers have been fined after repeated violent attacks on staff and patients at a mental health hospitalThe Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the leading care firms should have implemented “preventative measures to prevent violence,” such as training for staff.

Britain’s care watchdog brought charges against Parkcare Homes (No.2) Limited and Priory Central Services Limited, both part of the Priory Group, after staff working at a South Wales mental health hospital were subjected to violent attacks by patients over a three-year period.

Violent attacks allowed to continue at hospital

The now-closed Priory Hospital in Aberdare was a specialised setting that supported people with complex mental health, behavioural and learning issues. Up to 12 in-patients were cared for by staff at any one time. It was owned and operated by Parkcare Homes (No.2) Limited. Meanwhile, Priory Central Services Limited was responsible for the provision of training and equipment and the employment of staff at the Aberdare hospital.

Both firms, based in London, appeared at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court, where they pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 after failing to manage the risks of violence and aggression at the hospital.

Indeed, the court heard there were repeated incidents of violence and aggression by patients towards both care staff and other patients at Priory Hospital between 2014 and 2017. These incidents often resulted in serious injuries, including hearing loss, loss of consciousness, discolouration, numbness and permanent scarring.

The frequency and severity of these incidents led senior management figures at the hospital to raise formal concerns with Priory Central Services in November 2016. They, however, failed to take prompt and appropriate action to address the concerns and violent incidents continued to take place.

No measures implemented to diffuse violent attacks

Violent attacks at the Priory Hospital in Aberdare led to serious and significant injuriesWhen the HSE investigated, they found that the firms had not carried out suitable and sufficient risk assessments and that the equipment provided to the hospital and the general environment was not fit to diffuse violent situations.

Additionally, staff had not been provided with adequate information or training to equip them to deal effectively with patients who exhibited aggressive behaviour.

Staff also lacked appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) that could have helped keep them safe, such as bite resistant clothing and personal safety alarms.

The companies failed to conduct de-brief sessions in the wake of violent incidents, or when patients returned from sick level following an injury. They also failed to carry out any investigations into the incidents to establish what had led to them. This meant that no lessons were learned despite the serious and significant injuries repeatedly being suffered.

Firms fined for “systemic failures”

At a sentencing hearing in July this year, Parkcare Homes (No.2) Limited was fined £363,000 and ordered to pay a further £43,656 in prosecution costs. Priory Central Services Limited received a £40,000 fine and were ordered to pay a further £21,828 in costs.

Commenting on the case, HSE Principal Inspector Anne Marie Orrells said:

“Priory are a leading independent provider of mental healthcare and adult social care in the UK. It is a long-established company and despite repeated warnings about systemic failures it failed to prevent its staff being injured.

“Care providers should have adequate arrangements to effectively plan and organise preventative measures to prevent violence towards staff and other patients.”

The Care Quality Commission is currently carrying out checks on other locations registered by Parkcare Homes (No.2) Limited and will publish its reports when these checks are complete.

Training to help staff deal with violence and aggression

Care providers must assess, manage and control the risk of violent attacks and can help do so with trainingFirst Response Training (FRT) is a leading, national training provider.

They deliver over 7,000 courses each year in the fields of health and safetyfirst aidfire safetyfood safetymental healthhealth and social care and other special focus topics.

Their diverse portfolio includes training awards designed for care workers, such as Positive Behaviour Support, Understanding Behaviour that Challenges, Mental Capacity Act and many others.

They also deliver a range of training courses around Violence and Aggression and Conflict Resolution, which can include training in Breakaway Techniques.

A Trainer at FRT, says:

“Violence and aggression are significant risks within the health and care sector and anyone providing such services should conduct a suitable and sufficient risk assessment regarding the potential for instances of violence and aggression and should implement adequate measures to reduce and control this risk.

“Training can help care staff learn how to reinforce positive behaviour and discourage negative, aggressive behaviour. They can also learn how to diffuse aggressive situations and learn defensive strategies to protect themselves from violence.

“It’s vitally important for any employer to take action to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff.”

For more information on the training provided by FRT, please call them on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to