This House of Commons Library briefing provides information on key provisions in the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill 2017-19.

Steve Reed MP presented the Bill on 19 July 2017, having come second in the Private Members’ Bill ballot. This briefing has been prepared in advance of the Bill’s Report Stage and Third Reading on 15 June 2018.

The Bill makes provision about the oversight and management of use of force in relation to patients in mental health units and similar settings. It applies to England only.

The Bill would introduce statutory requirements in relation to the use of force in mental health units; and require service providers to keep a record of any use of force, have a written policy for the use of force, commit to a reduction in the use of force, and provide patients with information about their rights.

In the case of death or serious injuries following the use of force, the Bill would require mental health units to have regard to all relevant NHS and Care Quality Commission (CQC) guidance. This would have the effect of putting NHS England’s Serious Incident Framework on a statutory footing.

The Bill also places a new duty on the Secretary of State to produce an annual report on the use of force at mental health units. At present, data on this is not routinely published.

In addition to provisions on the use of force in mental health units, the Bill also includes provisions on the use of body cameras worn by police officers who attend mental health units for any reason.

Steve Reed MP introduced the Bill after a constituent, Olaseni Lewis, died in a mental health unit. The patient had been physically restrained by police officers. Mr Reed said:

Seni Lewis was a young man from Thornton Heath with his whole life ahead of him. But he died after his parents took him to hospital for help when he showed signs of mental ill health. Instead of receiving the care and understanding he needed, he was subject to severe physical restraint by 11 police officers until he stopped breathing. I want Parliament to pass Seni’s Law to make sure the serious mistakes that led to Seni’s death can never happen to anyone else.

The Bill had its Second Reading on 3 November 2017, and received broad, cross-party support. Some of the issues raised for further consideration included specific requirements on police with regards to wearing body cameras, and the quality of data collected by mental health units.

The Bill was considered over two sittings of the Public Bill Committee on 28 March 2018 and 25 April 2018. The majority of amendments were proposed by Steve Reed following discussions with the Government. As a result, there was little in the way of significant disagreement in Committee and there were no divisions. The main points of debate surrounded how to ensure that investigations of deaths following the use of force were independent, and that families of those who died had sufficient access to legal aid.

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