Update on Seni's Law, The Use of Force Bill
The Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill was introduced to the House of Commons in November 2017. Since then, the Bill passed through a number of committee meetings before finally passing the committee stage on 25th April, with cross-party consensus.
As the penultimate stage of House of Commons scrutiny, the committee stage sees MPs on the Bill Committee debate amendments to its wording. Many of the amendments had already been debated and agreed several weeks earlier, but were not formally passed until 25th April due to the delay in the Commons passing a Money Resolution, which must take place before any legislation with financial implications can be implemented. As such, the issue of training did not arise in this session.
Despite a small number of amendments which the Government successfully asked to be withdrawn, Mental Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price MP (Con, Thurrock) was keen to emphasise the Government’s absolute support for the Bill. Both Steve Reed MP (Lab, Croydon North), who originally tabled the Bill, and the Minister agreed the amended Bill would bring transparency and accountability to the use of force in mental health settings. In keeping with CPI’s views, Reed highlighted the importance of being able to compare like for like across Trusts (particularly in order to highlight discrimination) and said the Bill should improve consistency of recording, in line with the Equality Act.
Reed and Doyle-Price stressed the importance of advocacy groups (such as CPI) to the development of the Bill, and recognised the validity of concerns raised around an amendment according to which “negligible” incidents of use of force need not be recorded. They further emphasised that the definition of “negligible” in statutory guidance will be subject to consultation which such interest groups—CPI will be involved in responding to this consultation.
Committee Stage is now complete, and Steve Reed MP expects the Report Stage and Third Reading to take place on 15th June. Following this, the Bill will pass to the Lords for further scrutiny. In the meantime, CPI is keen to maintain political momentum around the Bill and is currently reaching out to other advocacy groups involved in influencing the Bill and the resulting guidance to develop a coordinated voice from the mental health sector. This will be the most effective way to support the Government in introducing robust, practicable guidance, based on collective first-hand experiences of working to protect patient safety.