Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:59 pm on 6th July 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Labour, Hornsey and Wood Green 9:59 pm, 6th July 2018

It is a privilege to contribute briefly to this Third Reading debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend Mr Reed on getting the Bill to this stage, and hope that there will be sufficient support for it when we vote later.

As a patron of Mind in Haringey, I know that there is a real sense of urgency regarding the need to improve the quality of services in mental health provision, not only locally but nationally. Whether it is basic primary care assistance to prevent the decline in a patient’s mental health, or at peak crisis time when psychosis, mania or the depths of the lows for a bipolar sufferer strike, it is crucial that care is provided in a professional, sensitive and compassionate manner.

Tragically, the Bill does not reflect the fatal experience of just one 23-year-old young man from my hon. Friend’s constituency: Seni Lewis died following restraint by 11 police officers while he was in a mental health unit. That was not an isolated incident. Thousands of patients have suffered abusive restraint, with too little guidance and supervision for police and mental health professionals on how best to manage mental health crisis. The high number of injuries—3,652 this year, according to the women’s charity Agenda—has been compounded by the reduction in spending on mental health wards, the cuts to training budgets for support workers, and the increased social isolation experienced by people with poor mental health. All too often, the warning signs are not picked up until a patient is very ill. Because of the lax reporting requirements on the use of restraint in the sector, it is likely that the available statistics under-report the extent of poor practice.

In a similar case highlighted by the charity Inquest, Surrey dad Terry Smith suffered at the hands of those who owed him a duty of care and he died in an ambulance, following restraint. When his behaviour became worrying, Terry’s family knew that he needed an ambulance; instead, he was met by police who, rather than seeing a vulnerable man in crisis, pursued, restrained, bound and hooded him, then took him to a police station rather than a hospital. They only called for an ambulance when it was too late.

Seni’s law will strengthen the guidance for police and mental health professionals so that medical emergencies are recognised as such and acted on speedily. The incident occurred before the introduction of body-warn cameras. It was pleasing to hear Philip Davies speak about best practice for body-warn cameras. When the Bill passes into law, it will assist many of our constituents, but it will disproportionately protect the high number of young women who are restrained and the high number of black and ethnic minority patients who suffer the highest number of injuries in mental health facilities.

In my first Adjournment debate, shortly after I entered the House in 2015, I highlighted the desperate need for better resourced, higher-quality mental healthcare in my constituency. This Bill will go some way towards that by bringing more clarity and better reporting standards, and it will set the bar higher for police and NHS staff, as well as for mental health advocates, but most importantly it will set the bar higher for those constituents whose pain is often invisible, inexpressible, frightening and overwhelming, and who sadly so often miss out on what we all expect from health carers: clarity of purpose, clear communication, understanding and compassion.