Cutting night staff led to nurse being seriously attacked

Dimwit pen pushers cut the staffing numbers at night time

Pen pushers in the NHS — image by

In my last two posts here and here (you might like to read these short posts to get the backstory), I wrote about how our patients, having gone from being slept out on other wards within our unit, to being bussed out to spare beds in our other mental health hospitals every night. I ended my first post with things couldn’t get any worse.

Well, they did. Despite being 20-25% over our regular bed capacity, the annual cost cutting exercise came round. To save money, our Dimwit pen pushers (Dpp’s) decided that cutting staff down from 3 to 2.5 at night would be a good idea.

Nurse severely attacked by mental health patient at night

So — Manish was at the medication room door, trying to find the right key, and Iki was waiting behind him. Manish pushed open the door and went for the light switch when suddenly he felt himself being tugged roughly from behind and realised there was something round his neck, choking him.

Initially shocked, then terrified, Manish tried screaming. He grappled and fought hard, pulling at the ‘tie’, trying to get his fingers inside to loosen it. He tried to scream again but was finding it difficult to catch his breath. His ears popped, his eye lost focus and then it all went black.

Old hospital corridors —

In the meantime, downstairs and outside, one of our better support workers was coming back from her break. She heard muffled cries “Help. Help me!” She raced up stairs and ran through corridors back to her own ward to see if that’s where the noise was coming from. No! She rushed to find staff on her team and told them what she’d heard. They checked their ward and found all their patients in bed and safe.

One nurse remained on their ward and raised the alarm by calling for Rapid Response Team (RRT — around 6-8 members of staff, one from each ward on the unit), while the other two ran to the ward next door. They arrived to find our ward, with only a few night lights on, and as they couldn’t see anyone, they called out to get the ward staff attention.

There was no answer but fortunately by this time Rapid Response had started to arrive one or two at a time (depending on where they’d ran from), and immediately they started chasing around the ward. However, as they didn’t know our ward’s patients, they didn’t know how many were on the ward or which rooms they should be in.

It was pandemonium; nurses running in and out of rooms, offices, toilets and bathrooms. They found Paru (the other ward nurse who was on her break) asleep in one of the Doctor’s offices and woke her to help as they couldn’t find Manish. Someone eventually suggested the meds room and staff raced there. They flicked the light on and found Manish lying on the floor, his face in a pool of blood, with Iki sitting on top of him.

Staff having to restrain a mental
health patient — unnamed

Staff had to untangle a leather belt from Iki’s hands before they were able to drag him off Manish, who remained still and silent. Staff dropped to their knees on the bloody floor and saw the blood was seeping from Manish’s mouth and nostrils. Someone screamed for the “Crash Team” (now the Doctors would come running too) while someone got the emergency trolly. However, as Manish still had a slight pulse, the defibrillator wasn’t necessary.

All staff could do was stay with Manish as the medics ran along the corridors with a trolley bed — so they could get Manish over to A&E and the resuscitation team as quickly as possible. In the meantime, a few RRT clung on desperately, restraining Iki who, although slight, appeared to have hysterical strength (adrenalin figures prominently in what’s popularly called the “fight or flight” response) and was struggling against the small team.

The medics arrived and ensured Manish could be lifted onto the trolley bed before they raced back to the general hospital. Although staff were probably still in shock, they were able to turn their attention to Iki and get some intramuscular medication (IM works quicker than tablets) into him, before they took him to the seclusion room (small room which is bare apart from a large single sponge bed).

I got the phone call around 2 am and dashed to our ward to see what support I could offer. The Senior on-call Area Manager had also been informed by our Duty Senior Nurse but there wasn’t much they could do until Monday so I was to hold the fort. However, I did mention the fact that there had only been one nurse on the floor — and told him why. Heads were going to roll.

We called a few staff who lived nearby to ask if they would come in to help support the staff and make up numbers on the wards. Once it felt safe to leave the wards, I went over to see Manish who was now out of the woods but still unconscious and surrounded by tubes. The Doctors said it was the worst case of strangulation they’d ever seen where a patient actually survived.

I will wrap up this incident in my next post. In the meantime, I do hope this post hasn’t distressed you.  Do you think the teams could have done anything differently?

If you or anyone you know is experiencing mental health difficulties, please see your GP. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please talk to someone immediately. In the meantime, this Useful Mental Health Contacts may be of interest.