Training in psychiatric institutions comes under fire at death inquiry

Control and restraint of some psychiatric patients is being carried
out by untrained staff and people whose training is out-of-date, an
inquiry was told last week.

June Tweedie, a commissioner on the Mental Health Act Commission,
told the independent inquiry into the death of David Bennett that
refresher training in restraint practices and procedures should be
carried out “every six months or certainly yearly”.

Bennett, a 38-year-old African-Caribbean patient, died in The
Norvic Clinic, a medium secure psychiatric unit in Norwich, in
October 1998 after being restrained by staff.

Tweedie told the inquiry, which was set up under health service
guidelines, that around the time of Bennett’s case, control and
restraint might have been a factor in the deaths of 22 detained

The number of deaths rose to 24 deaths in 2000, including two
African-Caribbeans, but she said the number had since fallen. In
2001, there were 10 deaths, including two African-Caribbeans, and
in 2002 seven, none of whom were African-Caribbean. These figures
allowed for “cautious optimism”, she said.

Tweedie also said the commission, which visits psychiatric
institutions three times every two years, found that three-quarters
did not have a relevant policy on racial abuse in 1999. A follow-up
study last year revealed that this number had increased only to
about half.

Tweedie advised that patients needed to be made aware that racial
harassment was not acceptable behaviour, and stressed that victims
of abuse should not be penalised by being sent to a different

Of the commission’s 160 members, which include lawyers, doctors and
social workers, nearly a quarter were black, she said. This was the
result of a “concerted effort” over the past five years to increase
the proportion from 11 per cent.

When asked about the over-representation of black people in mental
health services, Tweedie confirmed that the commission took the
problem seriously but added: “We don’t have any magic solutions to

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