Use of restraint on adults with learning disabilities rises by 50% in England

Former health minister Norman Lamb says new statistics are ‘shameful’

Former health minister Norman Lamb says new statistics are ‘shameful’

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Mental health charities have expressed concern that the use of restraint on adults with learning disabilities has risen by 50% in NHS mental health hospitals in England.

The statistics from NHS Digital, obtained by BBC Radio 4's File on 4 programme that airs tonight, show restraint on such patients was used 22,620 times in 2017, compared with 15,065 times in 2016. 

The use of face-down or ‘prone’ restraint – where someone is physically prevented from moving from a position – increased to 3,170 incidents in 2017, compared with 2,250 the previous year. 

‘Horrific revelations’

In a joint statement, Mencap head of policy and public affairs Dan Scorer, and Challenging Behaviour Foundation chief executive Viv Cooper, warned that 2014 guidance from NHS England to reduce the use of such restrictive practices is ‘clearly not being implemented’.

‘These horrific revelations reinforce the fact that the government and NHS England must urgently do a detailed analysis of where this is happening, as well as why the use of restraint has increased so dramatically in recent years,’ they said.

Disappointing statistics

Liberal Democrat MP and former health minister Norman Lamb, who introduced guidelines to reduce the use of force in hospitals in 2014, told File on 4: ‘The bottom line is that I had wanted to see, and expected to see, a substantial decline in the use of restraint – and that hasn’t happened.

‘I think that’s shameful when we know that it’s possible, in many cases, to avoid the use of restraint through a more sophisticated approach to people in inpatient settings.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘People with learning disabilities and autism deserve the best support and care.

‘Any kind of restraint should only be used as a last resort, and we are working to reduce restrictive interventions and improve patient safety through improved monitoring and training.’

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