The law says restraint is allowed in hospital or another health place only if:
- It is necessary to stop a risk of harm, OR
- It is an acceptable response to a risk of harm.
Nurses and other staff should try their best to avoid using restraint.
If you are in hospital or another health place for mental health reasons, staff must follow a set of legal rules. This is called the Mental Health Act Code of Practice.
The Mental Health Code of Practice says that restraint should, wherever possible, be used in line with a plan that has been agreed with you and your parents. It should be used very carefully so that you don’t suffer harm and your freedom, privacy and dignity are protected.
Nurses and other staff should always take into account your age and your physical and emotional maturity before ever using restraint. If you have a disability or other difficulties, these should be taken into account too.
The Mental Health Code of Practice warns nurses and other staff to only ever use restraint “with caution” because children and young people are still growing and there are greater risks of injury than with adults.
The Mental Health Act Code of Practice says that restraint should never be used to humiliate you or punish you. Staff should never use restraint to deliberately cause you pain unless you are in a very extreme situation where there is an immediate risk to somebody’s life.
Nurses and staff should never deliberately restrain you in a way that affects your breathing and blood circulation (an example of blood circulation being affected is when we get pins and needles, or your feet have ‘gone to sleep’). Your mouth or nose must never be covered, and pressure should not be put on your neck, ribs or stomach. Restraint where you are lying on your front – on the floor, a bed or other surface – should always be avoided.
During restraint a member of staff should keep check on you to make sure you are not harmed or injured.
From December 2021, children and adults in mental health units have new protections relating to restraint and use of force. You can read about these on another part of this site here.