Locked up and sedated: Huge rise in number of dementia patients being 'restrained' by hospital staff and carersApprovals for controversial measures jump 50%
00:00 GMT, 27 March 2012
Dementia patients are increasingly being ‘restrained’ by hospital staff and carers, a report warns.
The number of approvals for staff to use the controversial measures – which include locking sufferers in their rooms or putting them in beds with high railings to restrict their movement – has soared by more than 50 per cent in the past 12 months.
The report, by health watchdog Care Quality Commission, reveals that 4,951 ‘restraining orders’ were granted to hospitals and care homes last year, up from 3,297 in 2009/10.
Controversial: The number of dementia patients being 'restrained' through being locked in their rooms or placed in beds with high railings has risen dramatically in the last year (picture posed by model)
The orders include locking patients in rooms, fixing seat belt-like devices to chairs or using powerful sedative drugs to prevent them from wandering off and hurting themselves.
Because the measures technically breach patients’ human rights, staff are required by law to get permission from their local authority or NHS trust before taking action.
But the CQC warned many patients were being restrained illegally because hospital and care home staff had not sought approval beforehand.
Its inspectors found one distressed woman at a care home in the West Midlands who had been put in a bed with railings so high she could not reach objects from her bedside table.
Illegal: The CQC report warned that many patients were being restrained by hospital and care home staff before approval had been sought (picture posed by model)
Staff had not bothered to apply for a restraining order beforehand.
In another care home, staff routinely locked patients in rooms without seeking approval from the local authority.
Doors could also only be opened by a special number code which patients had not been told – and would be unable to remember even if they had.
Inspectors also found that many staff had not been properly trained to apply for these orders, called Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, and did not know when they needed to apply for permission.
Although restraining orders are mainly taken out on dementia sufferers, they are also sometimes used on adults with mental health problems and learning difficulties.
Increasing trend: Some of the examples of restraining techniques given in the CQC report
Last year, 52 per cent of applications were for dementia sufferers and 69 per cent were for patients over 65.
Cynthia Bower, chief executive of the CQC, said yesterday: ‘The safeguards are vital to ensure that a person’s best interests are carefully considered, their needs fully understood, their wishes taken into account and their human rights properly respected.
‘The safeguards are no longer new, and care homes and hospitals have had time to train their staff and develop their internal procedures.
‘We expect them to embed this as a routine, but essential, element of their operation.’
Hospital staff must apply to the primary care trust for such orders while care homes must seek authorisation from the local council.
It can take less than 24 hours for approval to be granted. Staff can email a brief description of the patient’s circumstances and why they think they need to be restrained. The application is then considered by a team of officials.