CASES in which mentally ill patients have had to be physically restrained have more than doubled in a year, it has been revealed.
The number of incidents in NHS Lothian in which physical restraint was used with physiatric inpatients rose from 69 in 2011 to 166 in 2012.
The figures were released in a Freedom of Information request submitted to NHS Lothian.
Staff use a range of techniques for restraining psychiatric inpatients including prone – or face down – or face up on a trolley or bed.
According to NHS Lothian, face down is used as a “last resort” in order to maintain patient safety.
Dr Jean Turner of the Scotland Patients Association said: “It certainly gives you a bit of a jolt to learn that the number of patients being restrained has more than doubled – and these are the cases that have been documented.
“Sometimes it is inevitable that people have to be restrained in these situations – but what are the reasons behind this increase?
“If you are restraining people against their will I would think that would make them even more disruptive.
“Could this be that there has been an issue with there not being enough staff so that patients have had to be restrained as a result? That would be very worrying.”
It comes after health bosses were ordered to take urgent action in August after a mentally-ill patient who attempted to kill herself by swallowing razor blades was illegally drugged and locked up by medics.
The patient, who went to A&E having attempted suicide, was injected with an anti-psychotic drug and forced into an ambulance after being fastened to a trolley following a struggle with up to six staff members.
However, it was later found that a series of blunders meant paperwork to detain the patient under the Mental Health Act had not been completed correctly, while questions were raised over whether appropriate discussions with her about the decision had ever taken place.
Over the past 30 years there have been more than 15 restraint-related deaths in health and social care settings in the UK.
Common themes that emerged in the cases were restraints on beds or sofas face down, clinical issues such as illicit drug use and prolonged struggles.
Professor Alex McMahon, Director of Strategic Planning at NHS Lothian, said staff were fully trained to provide safe and effective care for patients, including those who display challenging behaviour.
He said: “If it is necessary to restrain a patient then staff will assess the situation and use the most suitable option to ensure the safety of the individual patient and others.
“The use of restraint is recorded in individual patient notes. However, in 2011 we started to record this information centrally. These figures show an improvement in recording rather than an increase in the number of incidents.”