Mental health patients to be better protected from unsafe restraint under ‘Seni’s Law’ reforms

Reforms aiming to protect mental health patients from unsafe restraint have come into force following the death of a 23-year-old man.

New guidance has been introduced under “Seni’s law”, in memory of Olaseni Lewis (pictured), who died in September 2010 days after he fell unconscious while being restrained by 11 Metropolitan Police officers at Bethlem Royal Hospital in south-east London.

The Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act 2018 aims to ensure the use of force against patients in mental health units is better governed and requires police to wear body cameras while carrying out restraint unless there are legitimate operational reasons for not doing so.

The new guidance will improve the quality of staff training and the way in which investigations are carried out.

Aji Lewis, Seni’s mother, welcomed the reform as his legacy.

She said: “It’s so good to see the guidance published today and the Act being commenced.

“This is my son’s legacy and I hope it will mean what happened to Seni will not happen to anyone else.

“I look forward to continuing to work with the Government and mental health providers to make sure the act is properly implemented and real change is achieved.”

Shadow justice secretary Steve Reed, who brought forward the proposed legislation, said it will ensure mental health patients are treated with “care, compassion and respect”.

The Labour MP for Croydon North said: “I’m delighted the guidance for Seni’s Law has now been published and a date is in sight for the Act to come into force.

“Seni Lewis died in tragic and avoidable circumstances. His legacy is this Act and the changes it makes to ensure people with mental ill health are treated with care, compassion and respect.”

Minister for mental health Gillian Keegan added: “It is vital anyone receiving care in a mental health setting – a time which can be incredibly distressing – is treated with dignity and respect.

“Today’s legislation and guidance is an important step forward to ending the disproportionate and inappropriate use of force – protecting both patients and our fantastic workforce – within our mental health services.

“We must ensure what happened to Seni does not happen to anyone else.

“I want to thank Seni’s family, particularly his mother Aji, and Steve Reed MP for driving this work forward.”

The Act was greeted by tears and applause in the Commons when it received royal assent in November 2018.

Following a campaign by families, Seni’s Law now forms part of the Government’s wider commitment to transform mental health services, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

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