The violence prevention climate of mental health wards: a cross-sectional study of staff and patient views



Ward climate can shape the behaviour of both staff and patients. A subset of the ward climate is the violence prevention climate, the unique characteristics that are perceived by the people within the environment as contributing towards the prevention of violence. The aim of this study was to explore differences between and within staff and patient groups in terms of their perceptions of the violence prevention climate.


A cross-sectional survey was conducted with staff (n = 326) and patients (n = 95) in mental health care pathways within one charitable trust. All participants completed the VPC-14 to measure perceptions of the violence prevention climate, a validated 14-item two-factor scale (staff actions and patient actions). Staff demographic information was collected on the VPC-14 front sheet; patient demographic, clinical and violence data were collected from electronic case records. Bivariate analyses were conducted to compare within- and between-group variables. Significant staff and patient variables were entered into multiple hierarchical regression analyses to assess their relationship with VPC-14 factors.


Staff had a more positive view than patients of staff actions and patients had a more positive view of patient actions than did staff; staff- or patient-group membership was the best predictor of staff action scores. Individual staff characteristics accounted for a small amount of the variance in staff and patient action scores; individual patient characteristics explained more variance, but this was still below 20%.


Staff perceive their violence prevention-related contributions more positively than patients and vice versa. This has implications for staff; they may need to better articulate their role in violence prevention to patients, as well as recognise the role that patients play. However, within staff and patient groups, individual variables only make up a small amount of variance of perceptions of the violence prevention climate. This suggests that the violence prevention climate is a valid construct, i.e. that despite differences in individual variables, individuals within the patient group have similar perceptions of the VPC, as do those within the staff group.

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Correspondence to Nutmeg Hallett.

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Hallett, N., Dickens, G.L. The violence prevention climate of mental health wards: a cross-sectional study of staff and patient views. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 56, 97–107 (2021).

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  • Therapeutic milieu
  • Violence
  • Violence prevention climate
  • Ward atmosphere
  • Ward environment