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NHS Probes Into Abuse Of Mental Health Patients Double Amid 'Use Of Force' Allegations

'The use of force is endemic in the system.'

07/08/2017 13:38 | Updated 07 August 2017
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There were almost 200 abuse investigations last year 

Mental health charities have called for the end of “harmful” methods of restraint for mental health patients following the release of “worrying” figures. 

Investigations into the abuse of mental health patients have almost doubled in the last three years amid accusations of “endemic” use of force in the NHS, it was revealed today. 

Analysis of official figures obtained by the Times showed that incidents of abuse recorded by mental health trusts spiked from 106 in 2013/14 to 199 in 2015/16, while inquiries into the abuse of child patients jumped from nine to 39 in a single year.  

Meanwhile, more than 5,000 serious incidents were recorded by trusts last year - including 2,170 serious incidents of self-harm, 371 suicides and even the deaths of children. 

According to the newspaper, there were also more than a thousand complaints about care - including delays and the use of medications - while an additional 198 confidential information leaks were recorded. 

Mental health charities have called data “worrying”, calling on the government to defend patients’ rights.  

Dr Marc Bush, chief policy advisor at youth charity YoungMinds, said that “even one case of abuse is too many”. 

“The government must ensure that the rights of young people in inpatient care are promoted and upheld,” he said.

“In particular, we need to see an end to the use of harmful methods of restraint for children in inpatient units, including face-down restraint, chemical restraint or seclusion for long periods of time.”   

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Norman Lamb said the use of force in the NHS was 'endemic' 

A spokesperson for mental health charity Together said the use of restraint was an ongoing worry. 

“It is always worrying to hear of physical force being used against people with a mental health problem in hospital,” they said.

“It may be that more cases are now being reported as people are more aware of their rights and feel more able to speak out.

“Regardless, it is an issue that we have been aware of for many years and the use of restraint in particular is an ongoing source of concern in the mental health sector.”  

The figures come just days after High Court judge Sir James Munby slammed the “disgraceful” lack of care for a suicidal teenager, saying “we will have blood on our hands” if provision wasn’t made. A care placement has since been found for the 17-year-old girl. 

Former Lib Dem health minister Norman Lamb told reporters that force was used in mental health treatment “far too much”. 

“It’s just intolerable — the trusts need to be accountable,” he said.

“The use of physical force is endemic in the system. Abuse of patients, on the face of it, can be characterised as gross misconduct.

“The system is under an impossible strain and it shows that we’re not providing enough resources to good, preventive care.”

But a Department for Health spokesperson said that “serious incidents remain rare across the NHS”, adding that restraint should “only be used as a last resort”. 

“If there are serious incidents where patient safety has been put at risk we expect mental health trusts to investigate immediately to ensure this doesn’t happen again.” 

Under guidance issued by the regulator NHS Improvement, reports of serious incidents require an investigation.  

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