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Restraint-related death numbers far too high

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restraint-related deaths, high figures, mainly women and girls, Agenda, campaign, Seni's Law, “It is a national scandal that so many women are dying in our hospitals after being subjected to restraint.”

Thirty-two women have died over a five-year period after experiencing restraint, according to new figures obtained by Agenda, an alliance of more than 70 organisations who have come together to campaign for change for women and girls at risk.

The data, on patients detained under the Mental Health Act, suggests that between 2012/13 and 2016/17 women were more likely to have restraint-related deaths than men.

Younger women made up a large number of the restraint-related deaths – 13 were aged 30 and under, compared to four men in that age range.

And more than a fifth of the women who died were from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, according to the figures, which were originally gathered by the Care Quality Commission, the independent regulator of all health and social care services in England.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) classifies ‘restraint-related’ deaths as where restraint occurred within seven days prior to death. Restraint in this case includes all forms of restraint, including physical, mechanical and chemical.

The figures were released as the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill, aimed at reducing restraint, faced and completed its Third Reading in the House of Commons on 6 July 2018.

The Bill was delayed in June after being “talked out” when Conservative MP Philip Davies spoke for two and a half hours during the debate and during a speech by Sir Christopher Chope it officially ran out of time. Chope then went on to block the ‘upskirting’ bill that same day.

The Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill is also known as ‘Seni’s Law’, named after Olaseni Lewis who died after 11 police officers restrained him in 2010.

It is a Private Member’s Bill which has been brought forward by Seni’s MP Steve Reed and is backed by several organisations including Agenda, Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, Young Minds and Inquest.

Previous research by Agenda, as part of its Women in Mind mental health campaign, revealed that one in five women and girls were physically restrained in mental health units.

Women were more likely to be repeatedly restrained face-down, while girls were more likely than boys to experience any form of physical restraint, including face-down.

Katharine Sacks-Jones, director of Agenda and co-chair of the Women’s Mental Health Taskforce at the Department for Health and Social Care, said: “It is a national scandal that so many women are dying in our hospitals after being subjected to restraint.

“Mental health units are meant to be caring, therapeutic environments for women and girls feeling at their most vulnerable, not places where their lives are being put at risk.

“This bill is a real opportunity to reduce the use of this potentially lethal practice. We would urge all MPs to get behind it – this is no time to be playing politics with people’s lives.”

“The majority of women in mental health units have experienced violence and abuse – so being restrained is not only frightening and humiliating, it can also retraumatise them,” Sacks-Jones added.

“For this reason alone, physical restraint should be used only as a last resort. The fact that it is putting lives at risk too means there is added urgency.

“We need to see women and girls’ needs, including their history of trauma, taken into account in their mental health care so they are not subjected to treatment that is detrimental to their mental well-being, recovery and their physical health.”

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