Investigate patient perspectives on barriers and enablers to the use and effectiveness of de-escalation techniques for aggression in mental health settings.

De-escalation techniques are the recommended first-line intervention for the management of aggression in mental health settings internationally, yet use of higher risk restrictive practices persists. This indicates de-escalation techniques are not used at optimum frequency and/or there are important factors limiting their use and effect.

Descriptive qualitative research using semi-structured interviews and Framework Analysis.

Inpatient interviews (N = 26) exploring staff, patient and environmental factors influencing the use and effectiveness of staff de-escalation were conducted mid-2014. Three service user researchers led analysis.

Data were synthesized in three deductive themes relating to staff, patient and environmental influences on the use and effectiveness of de-escalation techniques. The dominant view was that restrictive practices, rather than de-escalation techniques, are used in response to escalating patient behaviour. Under-use of de-escalation techniques was attributed to: lack of staff reflection on culture and practice and a need to retain control/dominance over patients. Ward rules, patient factors and a lack of staff respect for patients diluted their effectiveness. Participants identified a systematic process of de-escalation, rule subversion, reduced social distance and staff authenticity as enablers of effective de-escalation.

This study investigated patient perspectives on staff, patient and environmental influences on the use and effectiveness of de-escalation techniques. Our framework of barriers and enablers provides indicators of organizational/behaviour change targets for interventions seeking to reduce violence and restrictive practices through enhanced de-escalation techniques.

Owen Price, John Baker, Penny Bee, Andrew Grundy, Anne Scott, Debbie Butler, Lindsey Cree, Karina Lovell
Journal of Advanced Nursing, 24 November 2017
DOI: 10.1111/jan.13488