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Injuries to mental health staff during restraint on the increase

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The number of injuries to staff while trying to restrain patients at mental health trusts in England has risen by 300 in a year, reversing a previous trend, latest data has revealed.

There were 1,847 injuries to staff caused by restraint in 2016-17, according to figures from 40 mental health trusts in England, obtained by the Liberal Democrats.

“Heavy use of physical restraint is an outdated practice that has no place in our health service”

Norman Lamb

This represents a spike of 300 since the previous year, when there were 1,544 injuries to staff while restraining patients. In contrast, the number had fallen slightly in the year prior to that.

The Liberal Democrats collected the data and other figures via a Freedom of Information Act request, in order to draw attention to the increasing use of restraint by trusts.

Based on the figures it received, the party said that mental health trusts in England were restraining patients on average every 10 minutes.

Figures from the 40 providers that supplied figures showed that patients were restrained 59,808 times in 2016-17, up 26% from 46,499 times in 2013-14.

The party’s analysis also showed there were 554 injuries to patients in 2016-17 and 150 complaints were made to trusts about the use of restraint, up from 100 in 2013-14.

However, there was improvement regarding the use of face-down restraint, where the number of patients being forced to the ground had fallen to 9,695 in 2016-17 from 11,292 in 2014-15.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb, who was a health minister in the former coalition government, said: “This needs to be given much greater priority by the government.

“Heavy use of physical restraint is an outdated practice that has no place in our health service,” he said. “It is deeply distressing to patients at a time when they should feel safe and cared for.”

He added: “Some inspiring units have demonstrated how you can very significantly reduce the use of force, training staff in de-escalation. This can avoid situations which lead to stress and conflict.”

“Physical restraint can be humiliating, terrifying, dangerous and even life-threatening”

Vicki Nash

Vicki Nash, head of policy and campaigns at the charity Mind, said: “Physical restraint can be humiliating, terrifying, dangerous and even life-threatening.

“This doesn’t have to happen,” she said. “If mental health settings are safe and therapeutic, with enough well-trained staff, we can significantly reduce the need for restraint and other restrictive practices.

She noted that the rise in use of restraint indicated by the figures was “worrying but not surprising”, and that when the charity collected data on restraint in 2013, it found many trusts had not recorded it properly.

Ms Nash highlighted that a private members’ bill was currently going through parliament that might increase transparency and accountability around the use of force in mental health settings.

The bill, if ultimately passed into legislation, would “build on the good guidance already in place and make for safer environments for people experiencing a mental health crisis”, said added.

Data collected via FOI request by Liberal Democrats:

Use of physical restraint (data from 40 mental health trusts) 
2013-14 46,499
2014-15 52,109
2015-16 57,602
2016-17 59,808

 

Use of face down restraint (data from 40 mental health trusts) 
2013-14 10,602
2014-15 11,292
2015-16 9,781
2016-17 9,695

 

Injuries to patients (data from 22 mental health trusts) 
2013-14 489
2014-15 607
 2015-16 617
 2016-17 554

 

Injuries to staff (data from 22 mental health trusts) 
2013-14 1,468
2014-15 1,615
2015-16 1,544
2016-17 1,847

 

Complaints made about use of restraint (data from 40 mental health trusts) 
2013-14 1,468
2014-15 1,615
2015-16 1,544
2016-17 1,847
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