HC Deb 08 February 1960 vol 617 cc26-7
36. Dr. D. Johnson

asked the Minister of Health what regulations he has made under the Mental Health Act with respect to the restraint, when this is necessary, of voluntary or informal patients in mental hospitals.

Mr. Walker-Smith

None, Sir.

Dr. Johnson

Is the Minister aware of the anxiety created by a court case in my constituency in which a nurse was charged with injuring a patient while applying restraint? While recognising the nurse's innocence of the charges against him, there is still anxiety inasmuch as this patient was a voluntary patient, but could hardly have been said to have volunteered for the kind of restraint that was applied. Is the Minister aware, in particular, that there is anxiety about the fact that a doctor was not present at the time of restraint, and will he bear in mind that the informalities with which we hope that mental patients will be treated have their risks as well as their advantages?

Mr. Walker-Smith

As my hon. Friend will recall from his assiduous attention during the various stages of the Mental Health Bill, there is no power in the Mental Health Act to make regulations for the treatment of informal patients. The seclusion of a voluntary patient should be imposed only in circumstances of emergency and should last only so long as the emergency endures. As to the summoning of a doctor, this must be a matter for the discretion of the nursing staff in the context of the circumstances of the case.

Mr. K. Robinson

Will the Minister not agree that the more progressive mental hospitals are able to cope with the most difficult patients without making use of any form of physical restraint, and will he not do all he can to discourage the use of physical restraint in hospitals?

Mr. Walker-Smith

Yes, the hon. Gentleman has put the broad principle of the matter very clearly. This was a very young nurse in this case. Of course, emergencies do arise which give rise to a considerable difficulty for staff, particularly relatively young staff, who are called upon to use their discretion as best they may in the circumstances.

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