Last Friday, I was in Parliament to support my colleague Steve Reed MP for his Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill, also known as ‘Seni’s Law’, writes Rother Valley MP Sir Kevin Barron.
I was extremely saddened by the case of Seni Lewis, who tragically died after being restrained face-down in a mental health hospital.
Sadly, Seni’s case was not an isolated incident.
Restraint in mental health units is still used far too regularly, despite Department of Health and Social Care guidelines which state it should only be used as a last resort.
I support the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill, which seeks to ensure physical restraint is only used in compliance with written policy and that training is provided to all frontline staff.
It would also require hospitals to publish data on how and when physical force is used and improve oversight so that staff are aware of the risks of unconscious bias against minority groups such as young black men with mental ill-health.
The measures contained within the Bill would support mental health patients and their families, increase public trust in the emergency services and promote dignity and respect in mental health services.
I hope it would reduce the use of force, while addressing the unconscious bias currently reported in the system by increasing transparency, evidence, accountability and justice.
More widely, I welcome plans for an independent review of the Mental Health Act, which is intended to ensure that those with mental ill-health are treated fairly and protected from discrimination.
A final report is expected later this year.
This Bill is an important step towards a model of care, rather than one of containment and I will continue to support it.
I very much hope it will go on to become law.