Government Give The Go-Ahead For 'Seni's Law' On Restraint In Mental Health Units


The Law Of… Preventing Death And Serious Injury In Mental Health Units

A new Use Of Force Bill has had its second reading in parliament, meaning it is likely to be given approval by MPs at the next stage. It is hoped the new law will ensure the safety of patients in mental health units.

Medical Negligence claims specialist, Alison Hills, explains the new law and why it is important for the health and safety of mental health patients.

Too Many Mistakes Made

In a report from 2013, the mental health charity, Mind, found that nearly 1,000 incidents of physical injury had occurred following restraint of patients. It also found that a particularly dangerous restraint known as face-down restraint, had been used over 3,000 times within a year. There have been at least 13 face-down restraint-related deaths since 1998.

Not only is face-down restraint extremely dangerous, it can also be hugely frightening and disempowering for anyone who it is used upon. It is advised to only be used as a last resort. Those who have been diagnosed with a learning disability or are on the autism spectrum are known to be particularly at risk of the use of face-down restraint.

This extreme method of restraint is dangerous as the weight used against the patient can seriously restrict breathing ability. As it is often used in incidents of panic and confusion for the patient, it can increase level of anxiety and stress and is often distressing for them. 

It has also been found this type of restraint is used more with ethnic minorities within the mental health units where it is still allowed.

Why Do We Need Seni’s Law?

One of the biggest concerns with this type of restraint is the inconsistent way it is used within trusts across the country. In some trusts, this controversial method is banned completely, whereas in other trusts, it is routinely used.

Mind revealed in their report from 2011-2012 that one trust reported 38 incidents of physical restraint, whilst another reported 3,346 incidents of physical restraint during the one year period.

Olaseni Lewis died in 2010 after being restrained by 11 officers in Bethlem Royal Hospital, Beckenham. He had suffered a hypoxic brain injury. As a result of this tragic incident, protesters, including Seni's mum, have fought to end the use of extreme force within mental health units.

The Mental Health Units (Use Of Force) Bill, known as Seni's Law, passed its second reading in parliament on Friday 2nd November 2017. It will now move onto the next stage that involves a detailed scrutiny by a committee of MPs.

What Will Seni's Law Achieve?

The change in law would mean that hospitals will be required to publish data on how and when physical restraint is used. The data will also be required to include the age, gender and ethnicity of those restrained.  In addition, any non-natural death within mental health units will automatically trigger an independent inquiry.

Steve Reed, the Labour MP for Croydon, who will introduce the bill said,

"it would expose the extent to which there is bias, particularly against young black men in the system, who appear much more likely to end up dead."

Alison comments:

“Detention under the Mental Health Act can be a highly distressing time for any patient, particularly those who are considered to be in the most vulnerable group such as those with a learning disability."

"Many of these patients simply do not have the understanding as to the reasons behind their detention, and if they are restrained unnecessarily or by the use of unreasonable force, this can result in increased anxiety and stress, serious injury or even death."

“Seni’s Law is a welcome change to ensure accountability for each situation of restraint and to guarantee that the staff carrying out these procedures are correctly trained. It must be that the use of restraint is reasonable in all the circumstances, without the use of excessive force to avoid similar tragic incidents in the future.”

If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical negligence at the hands of a mental health provider, contact Simpson Millar today.

News Archive

Get In Touch