Ministers will consider a ban on the use of face-down restraint in English mental health hospitals after new figures that show nearly 40,000 incidents of physical restraint were recorded in just one year.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed 39,883 recorded incidents of all kinds of physical restraint in mental health trusts during 2011/12, resulting in at least 949 injuries to people with mental health problems.
The mental health charity Mind, which received answers from 51 mental health trusts, said there was “huge variation” between trusts in the use of all types of physical restraint. Surrey and Borders NHS Foundation Trust reported just 38 incidents over the year while Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust reported 3,346.
Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust recorded 923 incidents of face-down restraint and Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust 810, according to the charity's figures.
Health minister Norman Lamb last night told the BBC he was “very interested” in “just banning face-down restraint”. Mr Lamb has also ordered a “specific investigation” into the use of face-down restraint in Northumberland and Southampton.
A separate survey by Mind of 375 frontline healthcare staff involved in physically restraining people with mental health problems, showed almost a quarter, 22%, had not had face-to-face training on physical restraint techniques in the last 12 months.
More than four in ten, or 42%, according to the charity, said that with hindsight, they felt that restraint had sometimes been used “inappropriately”.
Paul Farmer, Mind chief executive, said: “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.“
Deborah Coles, co-director of the campaigning group, Inquest said: ”Despite the plethora of restraint-related recommendations from inquests and inquiries into deaths it is shocking that restraint is still relied upon at such disturbing levels.“