Policy to minimise restrictive practices in health and social care published

Date published: 20 March 2023

The Department of Health has today published a regional policy setting out the expectations for minimising the use of restrictive interventions, restraint and seclusion in health and social care settings.

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The former Health Minister Robin Swann approved the Policy on Restrictive Practices in Health and Social Care Settings and regional operational procedures for the use of seclusion, following the completion of a public consultation exercise.

The policy applies across all areas where health and social care is delivered in Northern Ireland and is applicable across the lifespan - children, young people, adults and older people, to all health and social care staff and within all health and social care services. It provides guidance on the definition of restrictive practices, when and how they can be used and the monitoring and reporting requirements. It also includes a clear operating framework for the use of seclusion in health and social care settings.

Publishing the regional Policy, alongside the consultation analysis report from the public consultation exercise, Permanent Secretary Peter May said: “The regional Policy on the Use of Restrictive Practices in Health and Social Care Settings will provide a regional framework to integrate best practice in the management of restrictive interventions, restraint and seclusion across all areas of health and social care.”

He added: “It is accepted that restrictive practice must sometimes take place in health and social care settings.  However, the emphasis should always be on elimination of the use of restrictive practices, therefore we must ensure that their use is minimised and only used when absolutely needed.  Most importantly, at all times, we must consider the best interests of the person subject to the restrictive practices and how their human rights can be protected.”

Acknowledging the input provided by all those who supported the development of the Policy, the Permanent Secretary said:

“This policy is a genuine example of co-production. The draft Policy has been developed through engagement with service users, carers, people with lived experience, the community, voluntary and independent sectors and health and social care representatives. Furthermore, the public consultation exercise in late 2021 provided a further opportunity to gain important feedback from a range of interested parties.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Regional policy, consultation analysis report and responses are available on the Department of Health website.
  2. For media enquiries please contact DoH Press Office by e-mail pressoffice@health-ni.gov.uk
  3. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt
  4. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The Duty Press Officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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