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13th November 2017

Seni’s Law

 

Earlier this year I wrote about restraint of people with mental health problems following the inquest into the death of Seni Lewis (https://www.qcs.co.uk/reviewing-restraint/).  Now a proposed new law seeks to avoid such tragedies in the future. The Bill, known as Seni’s law will require hospitals to publish data on how and when physical force is used, and improve oversight and training. I’ve been looking at the Bill’s proposals which had its second reading during a three and a half hour debate in Parliament at the beginning of November.

Impact on Homes and Hospitals

It is a relatively short Bill, formally titled the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill which would impact on care homes and hospitals and their policies and procedures. It would apply to care homes and hospitals providing care for people with mental disorder. The Bill adopts the Mental Health Act’s definition of this and that, as we know, is a wide definition.

The campaign in support of this bill adopts four key messages:

  • Transparency
  • Evidence
  • Accountability
  • Justice

Firstly, managers would be required to publish their unit’s policy on restraint. QCS management information already includes policies on restraint. One of the significant issues here is that the new law would require managers to consult their local police force as part of producing their own policy.

Awareness Training

Managers would also be required to include restraint as part of induction training, including anti-discriminatory practice and means of avoiding the use of physical restraint. In the debate, a number of MPs referred to the psychological impact of physical restraint on women who had previous experiences of physical abuse.

Recording Requirements

Managers would also be required to record details on the use of any restraint employed. This should be part of any existing policy on restraint. The bill is quite specific in requiring managers to keep records on this for at least ten years. There are also certain requirements which would apply to police forces including the use of body worn video cameras where police are called to a mental health unit to assist in restraint. MPs quoted evidence during the recent debate that wearing of cameras reduces incidents of restraint.

The new law has the backing of a number of mental health campaigning organisations including MIND and Rethink. Though it is a private member’s Bill, the Government has said it will support it. It moves now to the Committee stage for detailed scrutiny. QCS will be following its progress.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

David Beckingham

Mental Health Specialist

David Beckingham is a self-employed independent trainer, and is also an honorary lecturer with the University of Cumbria. His professional background is as a social worker and he has worked in care homes for older people in Cumbria. David’s main area of expertise is in mental health. Prior to becoming self-employed he was a Staff Development and Training Officer with Cumbria County Council, both commissioning and delivering training to mental health workers and others in statutory and independent sector organisations. Read more

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