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Fivefold rise in restraints on NHS patients with learning disabilities

PUBLISHED: 09:26 03 October 2018 | UPDATED: 09:34 03 October 2018

Hellesdon Hospital. Photo: NSFT

Hellesdon Hospital. Photo: NSFT

NSFT

The use of restraints on adults with learning disabilities rose almost fivefold in the region’s mental health hospitals in the space of a year, figures show.

Data from Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) showed adults with learning disabilities under their care were restrained 172 times in 2017/18, compared to just 32 times in 2016/17. But last year’s figure is still lower than 2014/15 when restraint was used 349 times.

Director of nursing, quality and patient safety Dawn Collins said restraint was only ever used “when there is a real and identified risk of harm to the individual or to others”.

She added: “There are a wide range of actions that are referred to as restraint, from a touch on the arm to direct a person away from potential harm, to prone restraint in more extreme, high risk cases.”

The use of face-down or prone restraints on adults with learning disabilities also rose in the same period, from just one in 2016/17 to 21 in 2017/18. However this was a dramatic difference from 2014/15 when 145 restraints carried out were face-down.

North Norfolk MP and former health minister Norman Lamb introduced guidelines to reduce the use of force in hospitals in 2014.

He told BBC Radio 4’s File On 4 programme: “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 really shameful when we know that it’s possible in very many cases to avoid the use of restraint at all through a more sophisticated approach to people in inpatient settings.”

Ms Collins added: “Our service users have a range of complex needs, and in some cases, this can lead them to be violent or aggressive towards others, or to harm themselves. With some individuals, this can be repetitive behaviour and can therefore lead to an increase in the number of interventions over a period of time.

“However, we take every use of restraint seriously, with close monitoring, and we review every incident to see if we could have avoided restraint as an intervention.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “We are clear that 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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