A MENTALLY ill man attacked a staff member with a flurry of punches to the head at a Kendal hospital specialist ward, a court heard.

Mark Dixon, now 43, was at the Westmorland General’s Kentmere ward on December 8 last year when he meted out violence to a female receptionist.

Staff at the ward are focussed on providing short-term care to assist those suffering from mental health crises with their recoveries, aiming to enable patients to return home and regain independence.

Carlisle Crown Court heard the receptionist was helping Dixon check for incoming mail before opening a letter at his request which concerned an appointment.

Dixon, having earlier become agitated as he waited for the letter to be produced, then launched an unprovoked attack on the receptionist, punching her repeatedly to the head.

“CCTV shows at least eight blows,” said prosecutor Andrew Evans.

The woman had no broken bones and was discharged from hospital with head injury advice but took the next day off work as she was suffering nose bleeds and bruising around her eye.

In a victim impact statement she spoke of trying to help Dixon, “as I do with all the staff, nurses and people we care for at Kentmere”.

“She outlines that her friends, family and elderly mother have now all expressed concern at her continuing to perform this role, and describes herself as a changed person,” said Mr Evans.

“She describes altering the way she works, being concerned that she would targeted by other patients as a result. And, tellingly, she outlines her concern that the relatives of patients on the ward may have feared that their loved ones were in danger when they were supposed to be on a safe and secure ward.”

Dixon admitted assaulting an emergency worker.

The court heard that Dixon was deemed to be suffering from a mental disorder and that he was making some progress with a current level of treatment.

After receiving the conclusions of two doctors, Judge Nicholas Barker formally made a hospital order — as an alternative to a prison sentence — which means Dixon, formerly of Kendal, will continue to receive professional help.

“It is hoped that you are able to continue with your treatment, improve yourself and not pose a risk to others in the future,” the judge told him.