With at least 13 deaths of people detained under the mental health act since 2000 after staff used physical force to restrain them, the charity Mind says that it’s high time for more rigorous training and regulation.
“I was faced with six or seven staff. I was in a confused psychotic state so they were going to try to force medication on me and I didn’t know what was going on,” says Gary Molloy about the time he was admitted to a psychiatric intensive care unit in 1995. “Before I knew it I had people sitting on me bending my arms and legs, and in my psychosis, I thought that they were trying to kill me so I was fighting for my life against these burley nurses. They’re aggressive and they were meeting my aggression, I was manic, screaming and shouting, so they’re dragging me to the floor, knees on head, pulling my pants down and injecting me and it seemed like an eternity. Then I was carried into a seclusion room and held down. It was hellish.”
Molloy is bipolar and was admitted to hospital in London five times during the 1990s. He was sectioned three times and sometimes experienced this kind of treatment several times a day.
“My last admission was a voluntary admission and I was in the ward with my dad one day. There was an older fellow called John. He was quite frail and probably in his late 50s. A big commotion happens, eight or nine nurses jumping over tables, and they’ve got this guy pinned to the floor. I’m looking and I’m in pain. Their knees are on his head and he can’t breathe. This wasn’t a locked ward, it was just an acute ward. Maybe he’d thrown his dinner on the floor or he might have refused his injections. I’d see that kind of thing on the wards a lot, to women as well.”
It was 2000 when Molloy was last in hospital. But the mental health charity Mind has found evidence that people with mental health conditions are subjected to similar treatment today.
It says that nearly three and a half thousand patients in England were restrained in a face down position in 2011-12, despite the increased risk of death from this kind of restraint.
There were at least 40 thousand recorded incidents of all kinds of physical restraint during the same period, resulting in at least a thousand injuries.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, 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.”
He added: “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. Our research shows that some trusts have a shameful over-reliance on physical restraint and use face down physical restraint too readily in their response to managing a crisis situation.”
Mind is also calling for national standards on the use of physical restraint and accredited training in managing violence for frontline healthcare staff.
Click here to read Mind’s report.