New law will limit restraint in mental health settings

Act is a landmark moment for patient safety, say campaigners

‘Seni’s law’, proposed following the death of Ajibola Lewis’s son Olaseni, will require
hospitals to publish data on how and when physical force is used. Picture: Alamy

Campaigners have welcomed a new law that will restrict the use of force against patients in mental health settings.

The Mental Health (Use of Force) Bill is now an act after receiving royal assent in parliament earlier this month.

The original bill was proposed by Labour MP for Croydon North Steve Reed following the death of one of his constituents, Olaseni (Seni) Lewis, in 2010.

Mr Lewis died aged 23 after being restrained by 11 police officers while a voluntary inpatient at Bethlem Royal Hospital, Croydon.

In 2017 an inquest jury condemned the actions of police and healthcare staff who watched the restraint of Mr Lewis. The inquest found the force used was excessive and contributed to his death.

Staff training and incident reporting 

The new law will mean:

  • Better training in managing difficult situations for staff in mental health hospitals.
  • Hospitals have to publish data on how and when physical force is used.
  • An independent inquiry will take place into any unnatural death in a mental health unit.

The RCN's Catherine Gamble: ‘It’s an
important moment for patient safety.’

Welcoming the new law, RCN professional lead for mental health Catherine Gamble said: ‘It’s an important moment for patient safety and a way to ensure patients’ rights are respected. 

‘Mental health nursing staff want above all to make sure everyone in their care feels safe.

‘This law provides the basis for better protections from restraint and use of force for patients across the country and will ensure every organisation abides to the same reporting principles.

‘The RCN mental health forum was pleased to contribute, to support MP Steve Reed’s understanding of the issue and to give guidance on this bill.’

Mind chief executive Paul Farmer:
‘This law will reduce the use of force.’ 

Mind chief executive Paul Farmer described the new law as a ‘landmark step’.

‘Not just dehumanising, but life-threatening’

He said: ‘Being restrained is not just humiliating and dehumanising, it can be life-threatening. That’s why we’ve long been calling for an end to these practices, especially face down restraint.

‘This law will reduce the use of force and help improve the safety of people experiencing a mental health crisis.’

Mr Lewis’s mother Ajibola Lewis said: ‘We welcome it [the law] in his memory, in the hope that it proves to be a lasting legacy in his name, so that no other family has to suffer as we have suffered.’

Related material

The Mental Health (Use of Force) Act

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