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Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:06 am on 6th July 2018.

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Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Labour/Co-operative, Liverpool, Wavertree 10:06 am, 6th July 2018

It is a privilege to be here today. Members from all parties are often in a quandary about whether and how to be here on a Friday when we also have constituency commitments, but it was important to me that I be here today to support my hon. Friend Mr Reed. He has been a shining example to us all—Opposition Members and Government Members—of how best to use a private Member’s Bill slot, particularly as a member of the Opposition. He has put forward a change to the law in a way that has essentially secured support from Members on both sides of the House, as we have heard from the speeches so far. He has not only carried Members with him but achieved the Government’s support. I do not want to jinx anything, but I anticipate and hope that, at the end of today’s deliberations, the Bill will progress to the other place.

It has been a privilege for me to play a small part in the process, having served on the Bill Committee. I also stand here on behalf of the Labour Campaign for Mental Health. Many people outside this place are following our discussions today and have followed what has happened to get to this point. People with lived experience, family members and clinical professionals are really pleased that we are working on something that is productive and positive. I believe, as does my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North, that it will effect some change in our country.

I do not seek to speak for long, but wish to reflect on a few reasons why the Bill is so important. I hope that we will be joined by Mr and Mrs Lewis—I know that they are on their way—because it is a testament to them and to their courage and bravery that they have worked to ensure that, in the wake of the tragedy that they have experienced, some good will come from the tragic death of their son. Members from all parties have come together today to reflect on Seni’s death.

But it is not just Seni’s death; in fact, only this week we heard about some research done by the UK-based charity Agenda, which campaigns for women and girls at risk. That research shows that over the past five years, from 2012-13 to 2016-17, 32 women who were detained under the Mental Health Act died after experiencing restraint. That is another example of why the issues we are discussing are so important. Those 32 women lost their lives as a result of what happened to them in mental health units.

If we look a little more closely at the figures, we see that younger women made up the majority of those restraint-related deaths, and more than a fifth of them were from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. I listened very closely to Philip Davies, but I do think that it is important, in the context of what we are discussing today, to look very closely at defined and protected characteristics. We are seeing certain groups disproportionately affected by this action in more ways than others.

Many programmes have shone a spotlight on what happens inside some of our mental health services, in particular, the Dispatches programme “Inside The Priory”, which was shown on Channel 4 back in February. It had to use undercover cameras to expose what happened in one unit alone. It was particularly disturbing, because it showed the high-stress environments that exist in some, but certainly not all, of our mental health in-patient units. I have had the privilege of visiting a number across the country. However, when people find themselves in a crisis in such an environment, all too often, unfortunately, the staff are temporary, or they are bank staff or agency staff. To echo what others have said today, the fact that we have a recruitment crisis in this sector will have an impact on someone’s recovery. We should be doing everything possible to ensure that those environments are therapeutic and that they lead to someone’s recovery. I see this as something that is absolutely critical, but is it not a shame that we are discussing it today, and that we have to make this law? Actually, we should be doing everything possible to prevent people from getting into in-patient units in the first place, but if they are there, the settings should be right, the staff should be trained and full-time and the environment should be therapeutic. The fact that that is not the case is why this law is even more crucial.

We need to do everything possible to eradicate restrictive practices in in-patient care. This law is crucial in ensuring that when these things happen, everything possible is done to protect patients, to ensure that they are given a voice, and to ensure that they are not held or treated in a way that will exacerbate the very condition that saw them go into a mental health in-patient unit in the first place. Once again, I echo my thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North for all the work that he has done to get us to where we are today.