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Curbs sought on anti-psychotic use


Doctors who condemn vulnerable patients to a prison sentence “locked within their own body” through use of chemical restraints will face “serious” action if they fail to curb the practice, ministers have warned.

Unnecessary use of anti-psychotic drugs is killing 1,800 patients prematurely every year, according to the Department of Health.

Care services minister Paul Burstow believes dementia patients are “robbed of their dignity” by the common practice.

At a speech to the Dementia Congress in Liverpool today, he will warn medics he is poised to take “serious steps” if prescribing is not cut by two-thirds.

Mr Burstow will say that chemical restraints are like a “prison sentence, locking a person within their own body, shortening their life and robbing them of their dignity”.

A Department of Health commissioned review found that the drugs were being prescribed as a first resort far too often and, in most cases, inappropriately.

Mr Burstow said: “Anti-psychotic drugs prescribed against the evidence, without clear clinical justification, amount to a deprivation of liberty.”

The Alzheimer’s Society said the inappropriate use of chemical restraints was an “absolute travesty”.

“We need to see a mandatory review of antipsychotic prescriptions after 12 weeks put in place. We call on all doctors and care providers to work with us to end this chemical cosh.”



Readers' comments (2)

  • Absolutely!!! About time too! Watch out general psychiatry your turn next. How shameful that this had to come from a government minister and not from within the caring (?) profession responsible!

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  • In my experience as a MH student nurse and having a family member now detained under the MHA 1983, I have seen the abuse of power that is well too often ignored (albeit supported in many cases) by local authorities and social services. Clinicians in MH are still too judgemental and often, they can be the ones who lack empathy. So, the abuse of power against people with dementia is just an example of a wide-spread behaviour in mental health. But how to tackle it? People who rock the boat are moved aside. The Person-centred approach, in its true meaning as presented by Karl Rogers, has become nothing more than a meaningless catch-phrase. Principles and values presented in the CPA guidelines are seldom followed. Newly qualified RMN who may have some views about the abuse of power, often respond "go as the cookie crumbles!" to keep their job. There is a need for transparency and willingness to really want to help unfortunate people who suffer from a mental disorder. There is a need for more screening, even for psychiatrists and psychologists, to determine their level of emotional intelligence, as well as that of MH nurses and care workers, in order to avoid abuse, which comes in many forms. Lack of time, funding and resources (mainly human) also hinder the successful application of person-centred approach. Perhaps Mr Burstow needs to look further on at the abuse in Mental Health, and not just address dementia patients as unique cases. Haloperidol is still being prescribed to 17 yrs old!!!! Who's there to check? But mental health has always been a hot potato for governments; to support people who suffer from a mental disorder does not usually provide the success and public support that politicians need to successfully stay in the game. People who suffer from a mental disorder are viewed, by many governments, as a burden, something to get rid of or contain and control, something to be ashamed of as a society, something scary which we don't want to be involved with, so just put them somewhere and make sure they don't cause too many problems. Not much has changed since the 19th century in terms of government approach, in spite of new bills and the so called modernisation of mental health. Isn't it time we all take responsibility and really behave as a civilised society, showing real care and compassion? Next time it could be us!

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