Freeing up mental health restrictions, electronically

Martin Lees of Safehinge Primera discusses what the moves to reduce “restrictive practices” in mental health wards mean for door hardware, and how electronic locksets form a key part of the solution

The CQC report found examples where coupling service user independence with appropriate staff training led to a reduction in incidents

he demand for mental health care and support continues to rise, and the pressure on resources is increasing. Service users now spend 341 days, on average, in high dependency rehabilitation wards. Going forward, it’s clear that action is required to reduce the time service users are spending in facilities.


The Care Quality Commission report on the State of Care in Mental Health Services 2014-2017 highlighted concerns that care for some patients is overly restrictive, setting an expectation for mental health services to commit to reducing restrictive interventions. For Paul Jenkins, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, “the system has become too focused on managing risk” and “needlessly detaining service users in very expensive settings”. As a result, more and more trusts are now looking for best practice options to minimise restrictive practices, promote effective recovery and consequently reduce the time users are spending in their facilities. Projects we’ve worked on recently have installed electronic locksets to offer this greater service user independence, by granting them complete control over their own living space. Unlike mechanical locksets, they enable them to lock and unlock their own door by themselves. Can you imagine staying in a hotel where you had to ask reception to do this for you? If you had an unpleasant neighbour, you may not even feel comfortable leaving your room.

And while the perceived risk of granting this independence has long been considered too great – largely due to self-harm risks with keys and the potential of disruptive and dangerous behaviour, the CQC report found examples where coupling service user independence with appropriate staff training to deal with potentially dangerous behaviour

WWW.ARCHITECTSDATAFILE.CO.UK led to a reduction in incidents.

Through balancing good clinical practice with modern technology, trusts can create safe and normalised environments where service users have the necessary independence to help them recover, and staff have the ability and support to deliver high- quality care in a therapeutic environment. Looking for best practice in safety, recovery and practicality, electronic locksets have enabled trusts such as Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Humber NHS Foundation Trust to offer harmless wristbands or key fobs to service users – emulating the home environment and helping to restore dignity and aid recovery. They have the added benefit of being an easy retrofit – operated via a wireless network, the discreet system uses minimal cabling. Like all improvements in mental health care, electronic locksets alone are not the solution. But together with other improvements – like creating a therapeutic environment and providing appropriate staff training – service users can recover quicker and return to their communities. Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust approached Safehinge Primera as part of a major refurbishment of the Brunswick ward in 2017 – offering in-patient care for service users with dementia.

Because familiarity is key to aiding recovery, they required locksets that would help to normalise the environment and aid service user recovery. That’s why they chose to install our electronic lockset, Passport, throughout the facility – providing a comfort to service users by offering control of their own living space as well as meeting the CQC’s expectations of reducing restrictive practices.

Martin Lees is access control manager at Safehinge Primera


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