On 1 November 2018, Royal Assent was given to the the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act 2018.
Known widely as ‘Seni’s law’, the Act follows campaigning after the death of Olaseni Lewis who died in 2010 after being restrained on a mental health ward by 11 police officers. At the inquest into Seni’s death, the restraint used was described as ‘disproportionate and unreasonable’.
In summary, the Act makes provision about the oversight and management of the appropriate use of force in relation to people in mental health units and similar institutions.
It also makes provision about the use of body cameras by police officers in the course of duties in relation to people in mental health units.
The Act also requires the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care to conduct an annual review of any reports made under paragraph 7 of Schedule 5 to the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (Reports to Prevent Future Deaths/’PFD’ reports) that were published during that year relating to the death of a patient as a result of the use of force in a mental health unit by staff who work in that unit.
Learning and action following such incidents will be an important aspect of the legislation. A date has yet to be set for the Act to be implemented and guidance on its provisions is anticipated through regulations bringing its provisions into force .
- Mental health units must take steps to reduce the use of force against patients.
- Appropriate training must be provided on managing difficult situations.
- Collection of better data will now be required to map and highlight any problem area.
- Police are to wear body cameras when called to mental health settings, which can be used in evidence.
The CQC has recently launched a thematic review about the use of restraint which will look at whether and how specific health and social care settings use restrictive practices.
The review will consider settings that provide inpatient and residential care for people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and/or autism.
The CQC says this review will look at the range of factors that lead to restrictive practices and the extent to which services follow best practice in minimising the need to use force. The review’s interim findings are expected in May 2019, with a full report due by March 2020.
How we can help
We can assist in review of policy documentation and training for staff ahead of the implementation of the Act, as well as support for organisations when dealing with serious incidents, CQC and enforcement agencies.