Charity calls for ban on 'face-down restraint'

Nearly 40,000 incidents of physical restraint on mental health patients in England were recorded in one year, with more than 3,000 in the "dangerous" face-down position - according to figures released by a charity.

Full report: Charity calls for ban on 'face-down restraint'

It is one of the most controversial ways of controlling hospital patients but a new report claims face-down restraint is more commonly used here than anywhere else in the country.

Almost a third of all recorded uses of the technique in the last year happened in units run by the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust.

As Gregg Easteal reports health charity Mind is now calling for it to be outlawed altogether.

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Charity calls for ban on 'face-down' restaining technique

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Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust recorded 923 incidents last year where the 'face-down restraint' had been used.

The Trust says it cares for complex and challenging patients, which explains the high figures.

The charity says some Trusts use restraints too quickly.

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear health trust responds to patient data

A statement from Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust said:

"Reasons for restraint can include a patient being violent or aggressive to either themselves or others with a small percentage of patients requiring high levels of restraint due to the complex nature of their illness.

"Analysis of our figures has shown that a small group of less than 50 patients, who demonstrate very complex and high-risk behaviours, account for over two thirds of the recorded incidents of restraint.

"Our staff are given extensive training in recognition, prevention and de-escalation skills as well as methods of physical restraint and the risks associated with the use of physical restraint to ensure that they can manage episodes of violence and aggression in a safe, supportive, dignified and professional manner in line with national guidance.

"As one of the largest mental health and disability trusts in the country, covering two large cities in the North East, we recognise we are one of the highest reporters among those organisations who responded to Mind's Freedom of Information request.

"Our recorded statistics are comparable to other mental health trusts of similar size and who also provide a similar range of regional and national specialist services.

"Due to the specialist nature of a number of our services such as our forensic services, the trust cares for some of the most complex and challenging patients from all over the country, which means that the figures may be higher when comparing to areas without such specialist services."

– Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust

North East patient restraint data revealed

Nearly 40,000 incidents of physical restraint on mental health patients in England were recorded in one year - with more than 3,000 in the "dangerous" face-down position - according to figures released by a charity.

Mind said data obtained under the FoI Act showed 39,883 reported incidents of physical restraint in mental health trusts during 2011/12, with at least 949 people with mental health problems being injured.

The Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust reported 3346 incidents in one year.

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust also recorded 923 incidents of face-down restraint according to the charity's figures.

A separate survey by Mind of 375 frontline healthcare staff involved in physically restraining people with mental health problems, showed:

  • 22% had not had face-to-face training on physical restraint techniques in the last 12 months
  • 42% said that, with hindsight, they felt that restraint had sometimes been used "inappropriately"

"Physical restraint can be humiliating, dangerous and even life-threatening and the huge variation in its use indicates that some trusts are using it too quickly.

"Face-down restraint, when a person is pinned face-down on the floor, is particularly dangerous, as well as extremely frightening to the person being restrained. It has no place in modern healthcare and its use must be ended."

– Paul Farmer, Mind chief executive