‘Exceptional spike’ in restraint of mental health patients during pandemic
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Mental health patients are being restrained and isolated more often during the coronavirus pandemic, figures have revealed.
Data from the region’s mental health trust has revealed an “exceptional” spike in the use of restraints and seclusions during the Covid-19 outbreak - which the trust has blamed on heightened “anxiety and frustration”.
The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) published graphs indicating a rise in these figures for March and April 2020 in a quality and patient safety report in it board papers.
And the extent of the rise since February this year, which can now be revealed, shows:
• A 15pc rise in use of restraints,
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• A 100pc prone restraint rise,
• And a 120pc rise in seclusions.
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Patients were restrained 256 times in April, compared to 223 in February. While prone restraints were used 64 time in April - double the February figure of 32. And seclusions were used just 35 times in February, but 77 times in April.
The report by Saranna Burgess, deputy director for patient safety and quality, stated; “The trust has seen an exceptional spike in the use of restraint over this reporting period. This is likely due to several factors and does not constitute a trend.”
But she said an interventions committee would monitor the rise.
A spokesperson for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services said: “We believe that people in hospital should be restrained as little as possible.
“The use of restraint is a useful indicator of the amount of stress under which inpatient mental health services are operating - both for patients and staff.
“In April 2020, the number of restraints was 35pc higher than in October 2019. Yet, while NSFT claimed the reduction to October 2019 was due to the trust’s efforts, NSFT claims that the increase in April does not constitute a trend.
“This is this spin and wishful thinking which undermines quality improvement and trust.”
An NSFT spokeswoman said: “The April rise in restrictive interventions reflected the anxiety and frustration our service users were feeling because they had been unable to see family and friends and regular leave and activities had been restricted due to social distancing guidelines.
“Many service users are very unwell and have complex needs, which often means restrictive interventions are required to keep them safe and stop them from harming themselves or others.”
She added: “NSFT has ensured patient safety and enabled service delivery in line with government requirements.
“I would like to thank all our staff who continue to care and who have worked hard to ensure our service users are supported during this difficult time and actively reviewing people’s experience and working with them to try new ideas and actions.
“Our people participation leads are enabling service users to keep connected with family and friends with the use of tablets and keeping them engaged with activities that can be enjoyed using social distancing.
“We are now able to start to ease restrictions on visiting and leave, working within national guidance.”