Report condemns police use of CS spray on mental patients

REGULAR police use of CS spray as a "chemical straitjacket" to subdue mentally ill people is severely criticised in a report to be published this week by one of Britain's leading psychiatric hospitals.

The investigation by a team from the Maudsley Hospital, south London, into the use of the painful spray, revealed that a third of NHS hospitals said they had treated psychiatric patients brought in by the police after the spray was used. The report, the first national survey of the use of CS on the mentally ill, describes the practice as "inappropriate".

"Our fear is that more and more police officers accept the use of CS spray as a first line of defence. We have got to stop this tide," said Ben Thomas, chief nursing adviser at the Maudsley. Last night, Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity, Sane, described it as "a scandal" and symptomatic of the neglect that community care had brought about.

The immediate effect of CS sprayis intense and overwhelming pain, particularly around the eyes. Later effects include blistering, dermatitis, and allergic sensitisation. High levels have also been linked to heart attacks. There are additional risks if the person affected suffers asthma or other breathing problems, is taking medication, and is also restrained. The hazards for those already on anti-psychotic medication are unknown.

CS spray is being used increasingly by police to quell disturbances. In the past year it has been used against football fans, New Age travellers and protesting beef farmers. Since last October it has been available to all members of the Metropolitan Police.

The Maudsley report says the mentally ill are patients, not criminals, and urges action from the Department of Health. A spokesman for the Maudsley said yesterday: "The inappropriate use of CS poses a serious health risk to the mentally ill and nursing staff. There should be an urgent review of its use. The police are using it to subdue people before bringing them to hospital."

The report calls for a ban on such use of CS spray. In 12 incidents the spray was used on hospital premises to quieten patients, the authors say. Nineteen of the NHS trusts reported adverse effects of the spray on the health and safety of staff or patients; one nurse with asthma needed emergency treatment, and one trust reported seeing patients where CS spray had been used regularly once a fortnight.

Fraser Bell, a senior research nurse and one of the report's authors, said: "The most common pattern is that police use the spray, then bring the patients into acute wards. It is alarming that it's also used on NHS premises.

One mental health practitioner told the researchers: "I thought CS was to help police prevent crime, not hit people with mental health problems. In the past, police would have spent more time talking to patients. The spray seems like a short-cut, a quick and easy answer. These are patients that nurses deal with daily - we don't have to resort to this."

Five NHS trusts in the South and West, and four in the North-west, had reported use of CS spray by police.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins wins the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
News
(David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Planner

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen withi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£13676.46 - £15864.28 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Re...

Recruitment Genius: Existing Customer Telephone Consultants

£13000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Every day they get another 1000...

Recruitment Genius: Contract Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor