EXTRA training is being given to NHS staff after the number of assaults and threats against mental health workers in Lancashire reached a two-year high.

While in 2010-11 there were 744 incidents, per 1,000 staff, this has risen to 828 for the last year.

And the rate of physical and verbal attacks has peaked at 82 and 91 each month, higher than previous high watermarks of 70 to 79, recorded in summer and autumn 2010.

Much of the problem has centred on adult mental health wards and specialists services, according to a report presented to Lancashire Care Foundation NHS Trust directors.

And health bosses are working closely with police and Crown Prosecution Service lawyers to see whether the use of illicit drugs is a factor behind the rise.

Susan Rigg, the trust’s peformance management director, said: “We are taking this matter seriously with discussions within each network being used to investigate reported incidents.

“There is currently an analysis of the trend of violent and aggressive incidents across the trust.

“Certain key areas have already been identified which should be undertaken to improve staff and patient safety.

“Staff training is to be reviewed to ensure that staff fully understand recognising aggression triggers, appropriate engagement and a physical skill that is used as a last option.”

The number of violent incidents by patients on non-staff members, which could include other service users or visitors, has also been steadily increasing since last September.

Across the county an extra seven were reported, from February to March, as health chiefs have seen bed occupancy rates rise, and the complexity of mental health problems being treated increase.

Security specialists at the trust are said to be working with ward managers to review safey strategies in particular problem wards. There were 64 more such incidents in 2011-12 than 2010-11.

The trust covers the whole of the county and employs around 7,000 members of staff across more than 400 sites.