Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (576, 577, 578)

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

688 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of straitjackets in the possession of the health boards and other agencies funded by the State and involved in the care and treatment of prisoners, persons with psychiatric illnesses and persons with intellectual disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1451/04]

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Pat Rabbitte

Question:

689 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the legislation, rules and regulations covering the use of straitjacket in hospitals and other institutions; if he will supply a copy of the rules and regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1452/04]

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Pat Rabbitte

Question:

691 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that some psychiatric hospitals incarcerate patients in a silent room; his views on it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1454/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 688, 689 and 691 together.

The use of seclusion and mechanical constraint has been largely eliminated from mental health care. However, in a small number of instances such measures are utilised as a last resort. In The Guidelines on Good Practice and Quality Assurance in Mental Health Services, issued to service providers by the inspector of mental hospitals, the proper safeguards and precautions governing the use, as a last resort, of seclusion and mechanical constraint are outlined. Some recommendations are as follows: only a consultant psychiatrist may prescribe such treatments in writing; the decision should be reviewed every six hours; a patient should be visited by a nurse and observations recorded and documented every 15 minutes; and a separate care plan must be maintained for patients where such measures are required, recording information on events and the actual behaviour and interventions used prior to the episode.

Recently the Mental Health Commission appointed Dr. Teresa Carey to the new position of inspector of mental health services. It replaces the office of inspector of mental hospitals. The inspector is required to visit and inspect all approved centres at least once a year. She will monitor implementation of the guidelines during her annual inspection of each service.

In recent times many psychiatric hospitals and acute units provide multi-sensory rooms for patients where a calm and quiet atmosphere is created to help patients relax. Such facilities are most helpful to patients.