The Bill follows the death of Olaseni (Seni) Lewis. "After being sectioned, Seni was pinned face down by eleven police officers until he stopped breathing. Seni's story is one of many cases of extreme and often fatal violence used against vulnerable people in custody and the mental healthcare system, violence that particularly falls on people of colour. This law calls for transparency, accountability and justice in cases like this, and is a step towards both protecting vulnerable people and addressing systemic injustices in the fields of policing and mental healthcare."
I was extremely saddened to hear of the death of Olaseni Lewis after he voluntarily admitted himself into Bethlem Royal Hospital in August 2010.
I voted in support of this Bill, which passed its Second Reading debate in the House of Commons on 3 November 2017. More than 64,000 people have signed an online related petition in support of this Bill, which clearly demonstrates the depth of feeling on this issue.
Restraint in mental health units is still used far too regularly, despite Department of Health guidelines that state it should be used only as a last resort. This Bill seeks to reduce the use of force in four key ways: through transparency, evidence, accountability and justice.
The Bill will require that physical restraint is used only in compliance with written policy, and for training to be provided to all frontline staff. It will 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.
More widely I welcome plans for an independent review of the Mental Health Act, which the Government has confirmed will consider issues including: looking at why rates of detention are increasing; examining the disproportionate number of those from certain ethnic backgrounds, in particular black people, who are detained under the Act; and ensuring that those with mental ill-health are treated fairly and protected from discrimination. A final report containing detailed recommendations is expected by autumn 2018.
The Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill will now be considered at Committee Stage. I believe the measures contained within the Bill will support mental health patients and their families, increase public trust in the emergency services, and promote dignity and respect in mental health services.