VIOLENCE against staff working in long-term care facilities has become “normalised”, according to a new study by Scottish researchers.

Expert from Stirling University carried out a Canadian-backed research project which found that violence – including physical assault, verbal abuse and sexual harassment – is emerging as a significant risk factor in the

day-to-day experience of staff employed in the care sector.

The study focused on facilities in Canada but the authors believe their findings could help inform future prevention strategies for long-term care communities across the world.

The research team conducted group interviews with 56 staff at seven long-term care communities – including three large urban centres with a broad demographic – in Ontario, Canada, between 2016 and 2018. Support workers and registered practical nurses provided the majority of hands-on care in the facilities, with most of those being women.

The study revealed that workplace violence has an adverse impact on workers’ own health and incidents of violence and verbal abuse remain largely unreported because staff fear reprisals from their supervisors if they speak out.

The work was conducted by Dr Jim Brophy and Dr Margaret Keith, of Stirling’s Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, and Michael Hurley, of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Dr Brophy said: “The health and wellbeing of health care staff reflects the health of the system itself.

“There is widespread recognition that the public health care system in Canada – as in other countries around the world – is facing a deepening crisis, with working and residential care conditions at breaking point.

“This study adds new evidence and confirms previous scientific investigations that suggest violence is a significant risk factor in the day-to-day experience of long-term care staff. We found that physical and verbal abuse, as well as sexual harassment, have been allowed to become normalised within these work environments.”