REFORMS to make police and medics more accountable for the use of force against patients in mental health units sailed through their latest stage in the Commons unopposed yesterday.
The Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill — known as “Seni's Law” — passed its second reading in Parliament.
Labour MP Steve Reed hailed the Private Member’s Bill as “a significant step forwards in our mental health services in moving them from containment of patients to the care of patients.”
It would make it mandatory for police officers to wear body cameras while carrying out restraint unless there are exceptional circumstances for not doing so and would make sure information is recorded when force is used.
The reforms would also see any non-natural death in a mental health unit automatically subject to an independent inquiry.
“Seni’s Law” is named after Onaseni Lewis who died after being restrained by police officers in a south London hospital in 2010.
Mr Lewis was admitted as a voluntary patient to the Bethlem and Maudlsey hospital after suffering an acute mental health episode.
As he tried to leave the ward, staff called the police to help and he was restrained by 11 officers. As a result he suffered a hypoxic brain injury which killed him.
An inquest found that he had been subjected to “disproportionate and unreasonable” restraint but six police officers were cleared of any wrongdoing over his death.
Mr Reed, the Labour MP for Croydon North, first became aware of his constituents’ concerns over the treatment of black patients in mental health units after a community meeting following the death of Mr Lewis.
A 2015 Commons report found that black people were more likely to be restrained in mental health units with many complaining of “excessive force” being used.
Mr Reed told the Commons that people with mental health issues should be “treated with compassion and not cruelty.”
He added: “We can honour his [Mr Lewis’s] memory by making sure no-one else suffers the way he did and by making our mental health services equal and safe for everyone.”