Purpose: There is evidence that novel psychoactive substances (NPS) are commonly used by people with severe mental illness. The purpose of this paper is to undertake a scoping survey to explore the inpatient mental health workers’ perceptions of NPS use by consumers. Design/methodology/approach: A cross-sectional online survey of mental health professionals is used in the study. The participants were opportunistically recruited through social media and professional networks. Findings: A total of 98 participants (of 175 who started the survey) were included in the analysis. All reported that some patients had used NPS prior to admission. Over 90 per cent of participants reported observing at least one adverse event relating to NPS use in the previous month. The majority of participants reported that patients had used NPS during their inpatient admission. Three quarters were not clear if their workplace had a policy about NPS. Most wanted access to specific NPS information and training. The participants reported that they lacked the necessary knowledge and skills to manage NPS use in the patients they worked with. Research limitations/implications: Whilst the authors are cautious about the generalisability (due to methodological limitations), the findings provide useful insight into the perceptions of inpatient staff regarding the extent and impact of NPS use including concerns regarding the impact on mental and physical health, as well as ease of availability and a need for specific training and guidance. Practical implications: Mental health professionals require access to reliable and up-to-date information on changing trends in substance use. Local policies need to include guidance on the safe clinical management of substance use and ensure that NPS information is included. Originality/value: To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first survey of the perceptions of mental health staff working in inpatient mental health settings regarding NPS. The findings suggest that NPS is a common phenomenon in inpatient mental health settings, and there is a need for more research on the impact of NPS on people with mental health problems.