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Use of restraint in Australian specialised public mental health hospital has been released

Photo: Restraints used on mentally ill: report
For the first time, national data about the use of restraint in Australian specialised public mental health hospitals has been released.

New data shows mental health patients are still being physically and mechanically restrained despite a push to eliminate the practice in Australia.

For the first time, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has published national data about the use of restraint in Australian specialised public mental health hospital services.

According to the report, the rate of people physically restrained in 2015-16 was about nine times for every 1,000 bed days.
Mechanical restraint involving the use of either straps and belts were less-commonly used, at under two events per 1,000 bed days.

Children were physically restrained at a rate of 11 times per 1,000 days in a mental health bed, while prisoners were the most likely to be physically held down.

Rates of physical restraint were highest for forensic services, at about 110 events per 1,000 beds days - 20 times the rate for general mental health services.

Professor Malcolm Hopwood, president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, says restraint can lead to further psychological harm and should be used as little as possible.

"We strongly support the minimising of restraint where ever possible," Professor Hopwood told AAP.

While sometimes unavoidable, such practices need to be monitored and managed very carefully, he said.

"There are occasional situations in mental health care where restrictive measures are needed; so that really requires close supervision, regular review by appropriately trained people and the minimum time possible," he said.

Associate Professor John Allan, Chair of the Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council's Safety and Quality Partnership Standing Committee, welcomed the new information.

"For the first time, we have visibility of what's really going on in our mental health services.

"This is a ground-breaking step in our efforts to reduce the use of restrictive practices."

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