Mental health patient ‘abuse’ fears

5 Boroughs Partnership HQ
5 Boroughs Partnership HQ

The mental health trust serving Wigan is using controversial restraint techniques hundreds of times each year, shock new data has shown.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) show the 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has recorded more than 6,000 instances of physical restraint being used since 2013.

The safety of our patients and staff is of paramount importance to us

Gail Briers

The number of examples of patients being forcefully subdued by staff is rising and hundreds of employees have been injured at work in the last 12 months.

The Trust is also still using the controversial face-down restraint technique, although it is becoming more infrequent.

The figures were collected by the Liberal Democrats, who slammed the use of face-down restraint having called for it to be banned except in extreme incidents during its time in coalition, and the party’s activists in the borough again echoed the plea for it to be phased out.

John Skipworth, the Lib Dems prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC) for Makerfield, said: “Wigan, Leigh and Makerfield Liberal Democrats condemn the ongoing and increasing use of physical restraint on vulnerable mental health patients by the 5 Boroughs.

“When in government Liberal Democrats banned the use of face-down restraint except in the most exceptional circumstances but abuse of vulnerable patients continues.”

The figures show the 5 Boroughs used restraint, which could include simply guiding a patient with no contact, 2,256 times in 2015-16, compared to 1,987 in 2014-15 and 1,698 in 2013-14.

The much-disputed face-down technique was used 126 times in 2015-16, a drop from the 2014-15 level of 158 incidents and the 230 cases recorded in 2013-14.

In addition, there were 330 incidents of staff being injured in their work at the 5 Boroughs in 2015-16. The Trust began recording injury data in December 2014 and 79 employees were injured between then and March 2015. The number of injuries in 2013-14 was not recorded.

Patients are also increasingly being hurt as a result of restraint, with 42 injuries in the latest figures compared to 28 and 17 in 2014-15 and 2013-14 respectively.

However, the use of restraint does not appear to be leading to outcry among those involved, as just three complaints about the technique have been recorded since 2014-15, the most recent one being lodged in 2015-16.

As the figures are Trust-wide it was not possible to say how many of the restraint incidents took place in the borough or involved patients from Wigan and Leigh.

The 5 Boroughs robustly defended its use of restraint and the figures, saying any incident, no matter how minor, was noted.

Gail Briers, chief nurse and executive director for clinical operational services at 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The safety of our patients and staff is of paramount importance to us.

“We have proactively taken significant steps in recent years to reduce and minimise the use of face-down restraint wherever possible. This has included changing our staff training to include a number of alternative low level restraint techniques for use alongside verbal and non-verbal de-escalation techniques.

“There is no national definition or prescribed way of recording restraint. We have a robust process for proactively reporting and recording all incidents of restraint, including any low level incidents.

“Our belief and policy is that, if restraint is truly necessary, it should always be at the lowest level possible, for the shortest time possible, but it must always be reported.”