Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Anne-Marie TrevelyanMain Page: Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Conservative) - Berwick-upon-Tweed)
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I thank the hon. Gentleman. That goes back to my earlier point that the funding is there. We are increasing funding for the NHS, and CCGs should not be seeking to cut mental health services in order to cross-subsidise acute services. That is certainly not the case with my local CCG.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House have made important points, and I hope that the mental health review that the Government announced in the Queen’s Speech will take all considerations into account. Mental health really encompasses every area of Government activity, and a holistic approach is important.
I am conscious that I have taken up a little too much time, so my final point is about co-ordination. When sufferers of mental health find themselves in contact with the police, it is often due to more severe mental health episodes, and there is sometimes a frustration about which agency will take responsibility. If the police recognise a mental health problem, they will often get in contact with mental health services in the NHS, which may then get in contact with mental health services at the local council, and the patient and their family can feel that they are being pushed from pillar to post with no individual seeking to take responsibility. Returning to the provisions in the Bill about the collection of data, it needs not only to be collected but shared effectively among institutions. I hope that the review, which will hopefully lead to fresh legislation, will look at how to provide some co-ordination, so that there is somebody who can be a champion for people with mental health conditions and bring together the experiences of all the different institutions. At a time when families and individuals feel under so much pressure, if they can see that there is one person to whom they can relate, instead of having to negotiate with different bodies, that could provide much better outcomes.
In conclusion, I again pay tribute to the hon. Member for Croydon North for bringing this important issue to the House. I hope that this private Member’s Bill will complete its stages and make its way on to the statute book, but I also hope that it will mark the beginning of a wider process that will feed into fresh legislation covering all the different areas where we need to ensure genuine parity between mental and physical health. I hope that all hon. Members agree that that is the ultimate goal.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed) on introducing the Bill, which is important for the country and for Croydon. Seni died in Bethlem Royal Hospital, which is on the border of my constituency, and my love and support go to his family and friends for what he suffered.
A constituent came to me this week who had had a bipolar episode, ended up in a prison cell, and been assaulted. He said that “a police cell is often the first port of call for people with mental health issues, especially those unfortunate folk who, for one reason or another, end up on the streets like I had to go through.” He went to a solicitor to ask whether he should take action, and he was advised not to do so. Does the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mrs Trevelyan) agree that the Bill will change practice within mental health units and will also hopefully encourage people, when things go wrong, to speak out, to take action and to feel that they will be supported in doing so?
Does the hon. Lady accept that the named individual must be able to prove that they have been trained in handling these incidents responsibly and, particularly, that they have been retrained on a regular basis? One weakness of the units is that there is not only a lack of training, but certainly a lack of updating of people’s training.
One notable thing in the evidence about this is a huge variation in the use of restraint: in similar settings with similar groups of patients far more restraint is being used in some areas than others. Getting to the bottom of that when trying to improve the standards in all settings is surely part of the key to solving this problem.
My hon. Friend raises an important point. Does she agree that we must be careful not to judge people in that situation? There is always a temptation to think that there could be other reasons for it, but often they come from terrible circumstances, for example, having been the victims of child abuse and so on. There still needs to be a change in society’s attitudes, as we see when we look at some of these appalling cases of these people being abused by other members of the public.
I am a huge supporter of body-worn cameras on police officers and on prison officers, because I believe it protects not only them, but members of the public. Does my hon. Friend agree that just as—I hope—body-worn cameras will help victims of domestic violence who perhaps do not have the confidence to give evidence against their assailants, or cannot face the consequences of doing so, the same thing may apply in respect of prisons?
Does my hon. Friend also agree that one bonus of footage from body-worn cameras is that people have to go through a less lengthy investigation? Such investigations take the police officer off duty and put them on gardening leave. Having the certainty these cameras provide means that for both sides a quick resolution can be reached, and the organisation can then move on.
My hon. Friend just mentioned a case in a special school. I know we are talking about mental health units, but I wish to raise in the House the concern that exists about restraint in special schools. A case in my constituency involves some autistic boys having gone through some really concerning restraint when they were quite young, which gave them serious bruising. They have now been taken out of that setting, but we have never really got to the bottom of what happened there. This feels like something that needs to be looked into.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed) for introducing the Bill; he certainly made a powerful case for it. Everything we have heard has made it clear why the Bill is necessary. I congratulate Opposition and Government Members for the constructive way in which they have contributed to the debate so far. There is broad support for the measures in the Bill and I hope that if there are disagreements, they can be ironed out in Committee.
My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North spoke movingly about the case of Seni Lewis, who, as we heard, tragically died after being restrained face-down in a mental health hospital. We have heard other examples of the issues that the Bill is designed to address. Sadly, Seni’s case was not an isolated incident. Restraint is still used far too regularly, despite Department of Health guidelines that state it should be used only as a last resort. Guidelines state that the dangerous practice of face-down restraint should be phased out, but unfortunately the technique is still used widely. There is significant variation in the use of restraint on mental health patients.