The Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill received Royal Assent on 1 November 2018. This means that it has now become an Act.
This is also known as "Seni's Law" after Olaseni Lewis who tragically died aged 23, after being restrained on a mental health ward by police officers. At the inquest the restraint used was deemed to be excessive, unreasonable and disproportionate.
Because of the new law, each mental health unit will have to publish a policy to set out what steps will be taken to reduce the use of force by staff who work in that unit.
They must publish information about patients' rights in relation to the use of force.
The units must provide training for staff which includes:
Each mental health unit must keep a record of any use of force by staff who work in that unit where the use of force is not "negligible". Some of the information that must be included is:
At the end of each year the Secretary of State must ensure that statistics relating to the records collected are analysed and published.
Importantly, if a police officer is going to a mental health unit to help staff the officer must take a body camera.
We are very pleased that this bill has come into force. We have been campaigning against restraint for several years and there has been progress but not enough. When someone is in crisis they need care not to be restrained.
We are concerned about the exclusion of "negligible" incidents of use of force. This is going to be defined in guidance so we don't know what this means yet. This undermines the purpose of the Act which is to promote transparency. We know that despite guidance, it will be open to interpretation and very subjective. There may be situations where there are lots of smaller uses of forces which are not recorded because they are negligible but have an equally negative effect.
Restraint was used over three times more often on Black and Black British people than it was on White people in 2016/17.  This law is a massive step forward in limiting the use of force and tackling the inequalities still embedded in today's mental health care.
We hope by improving transparency and accountability that the numbers of incidents will reduce and that this will have a positive impact on black and minority ethnic communities.
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