More than 100 Ashfield mental health patients subjected to 'traumatising' restraints

Potentially deadly face-down restraints were used more than 100 times on mental health and learning disability patients in Ashfield last year, figures reveal.

Government reforms aiming to protect mental health patients from unsafe restraint recently came into force following the death of 23-year-old Olaseni Lewis, after he was restrained by police officers in London.

Mental health charity Mind welcomed the new reforms, known as Seni’s Law, and said the figures show how pervasive the use of force is across England.

NHS Digital figures show restrictive interventions were used roughly 900 times on about 50 Ashfield patients with learning disabilities, autism or in secondary mental health services in 2020-21.

Across England, 151,554 restrictive interventions were used last year – more than two-thirds of which were forms of physical restraint.

Of these, 110 instances saw patients put in the prone position, where they are physically pinned face-down against the floor or another surface – a practice which is said to carry a serious risk of death.

Across England, 151,554 restrictive interventions were used last year – more than two-thirds of which were forms of physical restraint.

This was a 15 per cent rise from the 131,338 interventions the year before, and almost double the 80,387 recorded in 2016-17 – the first year of figures available.

Of those last year, 12,420 were prone restraints – also the highest number on record.

Restrictive interventions include forms of physical, mechanical and chemical restraint, as well as seclusion and segregation.

New guidance was introduced in early December in memory of Mr Lewis, who died in September 2010 days after he fell unconscious while being restrained by 11 police officers at a London hospital.

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The Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act 2018 aims to ensure the use of force against patients in mental health units is better governed and requires police to wear body cameras while carrying out restraint, unless there are legitimate operational reasons for not doing so.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said Seni’s Law will reduce the use of inappropriate force in mental health settings.

Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust is responsible for many mental health services across the county.

Dr Julie Attfield, trust executive director of local mental health services, said: “As a member of the Restraint Reduction Network, the trust is fully committed to reducing restrictive practice and promoting a least restrictive culture within all our services. Essential to our ambition is the need to maintain safe and therapeutic environments where dignity and mutual respect are central to our values.

“We believe restrictive interventions, including prone restraint, should only be used as a last resort, by well-trained staff where there is no alternative and only where there is a real risk of harm to the person or to others.

“We welcome the new legislation regarding the use of force in mental health units and will challenge ourselves to continue to improve and to meet the requirements of Seni’s Law and uphold the rights of people who use our services to receive safe person-centred care and support.”