Use of Force Bill passes Third Reading

The Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill has passed the Third Reading stage in the House of Commons. The Bill was proposed by Steve Reed MP following the death of Seni Lewis in 2010. Aged just 23 years old, he died following prolonged restraint that was deemed to be excessive, unreasonable, and disproportionate at the inquest into his death. Seni’s family have campaigned tirelessly over many years to change the law around the use of force.

The Bill aims to increase transparency and accountability and is an important step towards making safer environments for everyone experiencing a mental health crisis. Force is often used to control people’s behaviour when they are in hospital or another health setting. It can include physically restraining someone against their will, injecting them with medication or using seclusion to confine and isolate someone on the ward.

Earlier this week, Agenda released statistics that showed 32 women have died in the last five years as a result of restraint. Last month, figures from mental health hospitals showed that over three and a half thousand people suffered an injury through being restrained between 2016 and 2017. That’s the highest figure ever recorded. The evidence shows that restraint is damaging.

Mind has been supporting this Bill and working with YoungMinds, Rethink Mental Illness, INQUEST, Agenda, Article 39, BILD (home of the Restraint Reduction Network), National Autistic Society and Equality and Human Rights Commission to encourage MPs to support it.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “This is a huge step towards an important change in the law that will improve the safety of people who are in a mental health crisis. We are delighted that the Bill has such strong cross-party support, which reflects how much attitudes are changing about how services should treat the one in four of us who will experience a mental health problem every year. When someone is having a mental health crisis they may be suicidal, self-harming or in psychosis, and very frightened or distressed. No matter what happens they need to be treated with care and compassion and need help, not harm.

“Steve should be commended for spearheading such an important bill and we are grateful too for the Minister’s backing. We are proud to have worked alongside our sector colleagues and over 1,000 Mind campaigners to help drive this forward and will continue to raise awareness of this issue as this Bill progresses.”

Brian Dow, Director of External Affairs at Rethink Mental Illness said: “The system tragically failed Olaseni Lewis. If we can get this bill passed, it will mean real progress towards making sure it doesn’t fail anyone else. We will work with Steve Reed and other parliamentarians as the Bill continues to move through Parliament to support it.”