Casualty calls in the psychologists

The National Health Service has been consulting psychologists in an attempt to find inexpensive ways of reducing the likelihood that patients will lose their temper in accident and emergency (A&E) departments.

A report on the BBC News website says the psychologists helped designers identify six profiles explaining why patients might become violent (such as being drunk or confused), and nine factors that could trigger violence - such as inhospitable environments.

The solutions suggested include a new approach to greeting patients when they arrive and answering their questions, as well as clearer signs and maps explaining the different stages of A&E treatment.

Another suggestion is to use screens to give live updates about how many cases are being handled by the staff. There is also advice about lighting, decor and seating for managers who are planning major refurbishments.

Hospitals in Chesterfield, Southampton and London will are expected to test the ideas.

Thomas Stewart, a Chartered Psychologist, told us:

"There is growing interest, especially in public services, in understanding how to influence human behaviour.  Popularly known as 'nudge' the approach involves recognising the various contextual factors which influence behaviour and then modifying these to make the desired behaviour more likely.

"This project represents a good example of the power of simple 'nudges' such as how providing more focused information on why and how long someone might have to wait can defuse anger and impatience."