Managing risk

'Risk assessment' is an important part of the work of mental health professionals. In forensic psychiatry, risk to others is a concern as well as risk to self. It is the responsibility of all practitioners and of the system they work in to assess risk continuously, and to try to manage it so as to reduce it as far as possible. Risk assessment should be integrated into all aspects of modern psychiatry. The use of printed or computerized forms can help to ensure that assessments are done, recorded, and, most importantly, communicated to others. Following adverse events, it has been frequently found in inquiries that important decisions, such as discharge of a patient from hospital, had been taken by staff who were not in possession of all the key risk information about that patient.

Risk assessment is especially important when something is changing in the patient's care, such as reduction of frequency of observation on a ward or discharge from hospital.

When things do go wrong, there should be non-judgemental efforts to find out why, so that improvements can be made.

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