11th December 2017

The NHS annual mental health bulletin  for 2016-2017, published on 30 November 2017, provides new figures on the use of restraint on patients in mental health units.

The Guardian’s analysis of these figures shows:

  • Patients in mental health units were physically restrained by staff more than 80,000 times last year in Britain, including 10,000 who were held face down or given injections to subdue them.
  • Girls and young women under the age of 20 were the most likely to be restrained, each being subjected 30 times a year on average to techniques that can involve a group of staff combining to tackle a patient who is being aggressive or violent.
  • Black people were three times more likely to be restrained than white people, according to the first comprehensive NHS data on the use in England of such techniques, which have provoked controversy for many years.

The findings have prompted fresh concern among mental health experts that too many patients are still being restrained, despite moves by the government and NHS in recent years to reduce the incidence. Mental health campaigners fear that the use of such force can cause patients physical harm or revive painful memories of the trauma that many have suffered in childhood.

The Department of Health said that its guidance, issued in 2014, stressed that restraint should be used only if other means of dealing with difficult situations were unlikely to succeed.