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Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:02 am on 6th July 2018.

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Photo of Scott Mann Scott Mann Conservative, North Cornwall 10:02 am, 6th July 2018

I rise to speak in support of the Bill. I congratulate Mr Reed on getting the Bill to this stage and on his work to make sure that people who are detained in mental health units have proper rights and are properly protected. I welcome the fact that the Government support the Bill and that reforms to mental health legislation are on their agenda.

Our understanding of mental health has progressed by leaps and bounds since the Mental Health Act 1983 was introduced. We need mental health legislation that is fit for purpose in our modern times and that gives better protection to people with mental health challenges, and we need better guidance and training for those who are there to help. That is why it is right that we introduce reforms and why I will support the Bill today. Although it focuses only on a specific part of mental health provision, it will nevertheless make sure that better protections are in place.

One big issue in recent years has been the detention of people with mental health problems in police station prison cells, where they do not have the appropriate level of support which they would have access to in a mental health unit. The problem is twofold: first, there are problems with the process and resources at police stations for looking after people with mental ill health; and secondly, there is a lack of mental health beds in many local communities. Both issues are being addressed through increases in mental health funding, with the Government pledging an additional £1 billion between 2016 and 2021.

I was pleased to hear in March that the number of people being detained in police cells in Devon and Cornwall when suffering a mental health crisis was zero, and I hope that is still the case. I look forward to seeing the numbers and hope that they are still very low. Since 2013, the figures for the number of people put in a cell alongside offenders, under section 136 of the Mental Health Act, have steadily decreased, from 800 to just 31 in 2017.

I welcome clause 2, which will ensure that mental health units have registered managers, and clauses 3 and 4, which will ensure that those managers will publish a written policy regarding the use of force on patients and that there is information explaining patients’ rights in relation to the use of force. I am particularly pleased that clause 5 will ensure that the appropriate training is in place for staff who work in mental health units. That will include making sure that staff involve patients in the planning, development and delivery of care in the unit. The risk associated with using force, its effect on a patient’s mental and physical health, and any use of force could all affect a patient’s development.

I welcome the provisions in the Bill on the use of video recording in units to make sure that any use of force is transparent and accountable. In pursuit of a more transparent system, I support clauses 8 and 9, which legislate for the publication by the Secretary of State of statistics on the use of force and an annual review of any deaths that result from the use of force. It is important that we learn from tragic incidents such as those we have heard about during our consideration of the Bill. The publication of statistics and the review of incidents will make sure that the legislation continues to work properly into the future and that patients are protected.

Once again, I welcome the Bill and the reforms that it will introduce. I wish the hon. Member for Croydon North every success in getting it through Parliament.