Fresh calls for ‘last resort’ restraint to be banned

Plea comes after spike in use of face-down measure at mental health centre

Friday, 1st April — By Tom Foot

NHS LOGO

MENTAL health campaigners have repeated calls for face-down restraints to be banned after a huge spike in the “coercive and life-threatening” measure was recorded at a mental health centre.

More than 100 “prone” restraints were reported on a single ward of the Highgate Mental Health Centre during a “particularly challenging” period in January and February.

The supposedly “last resort” technique – which involves a patient being pinned on a surface and physically prevented from moving – is widely condemned for putting lives at risk and leaving patients with lasting trauma. One patient on the Coral Ward who was “resisting medication” was restrained 45 times in a single month.

NHS sources are concerned that mental health teams are routinely turning to face-down “prone” restraints because of a rise in complex patients following the pandemic and because of staff shortages caused by NHS underfunding.

Rheian Davies, head of the legal unit at the charity Mind, told the Tribune: “As pressures on NHS crisis care have grown, and early inter­vention care has dropped, mental health settings have had to deal with more people experiencing complex and severe problems which can lead to the situations where restraint is used.

“Experiencing a mental health crisis – feeling suicidal, self-harming or hearing or seeing things others don’t – is terrifying. Patients in this situation need and expect care and compassion, not coercive, life-threatening measures such as face-down restraint.”

She added that she wanted to “see an end to face-down restraint” and that government “immediately give mental health services and their workforces the funding they need” and find a way to “reduce restrictive, discrimina­tory practices”.

Mental health legislation in 2015 aimed to end the use of outdated prone restraints. But they continue to be lawful, as long as they are not planned and managers can give “cogent reasons”.

A Camden and Islington statement said the figures were not “typical” and they were working hard to create a calmer environment, adding: “Our policy as a Trust, and in line with best practice, is proactively to reduce the use of prone restraints, using them only as a last resort when they remain the sole option for the safety of an inpatient or staff member.”

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