Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Use of force in mental health services

Seni's law, also known as the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act 2018, will come into effect on 31 March 2022 (see Mind press release) . The government published guidance at the end of last year to support its implementation. 

As the guidance says, "For too long the use of force has been accepted as the norm in many mental health services". People’s dignity and their civil and political rights must be respected. Although there may be circumstances in which it may be difficult to avoid the use of force, any compulsory treatment should only be used as a last resort after all other treatment and non-treatment options have been considered and excluded, and only when needed to prevent serious and imminent harm to people (see previous post). The aim should be to eliminate seclusion and segregation (see previous post). Restraint, including chemical restraint, needs to be regulated (see eg. previous post). Progress in removal of compulsion should be compliant with the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability (CRPD) (see eg. yet another previous post). 

NHS and independent hospitals must appoint a 'responsible person' to produce a policy to reduce the use of force in mental health units and collect data on any use of force. These figures will be published nationally. Staff must receive appropriate training. Hospitals have been given time to ensure Seni's law is implemented and I look forward to seeing its impact in reducing coercion.

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