Reducing seclusion and restraint


Project seeks answers to a complex mental health issue.

Two Area Health Services in NSW are taking part in a national project aimed at reducing and, if possible, eliminating the use of seclusion and restraint in public mental health services.

South Eastern Sydney & Illawarra Area Health Service (SESIAHS) and Hunter New England Area Health Service (HNEAHS) have received Federal Government funding to take part in the National Mental Health Seclusion and Restraint Project.

The use of seclusion and restraint often exposes staff and patients to injury and is internationally regarded as a highly complex issue.

By developing and testing resources that can be used to support long-term change in mental health workforce culture and practice, the project aims to reduce the use of seclusion and restraint.

‘The NSWNA supports any strategy that improves education and training for staff in the management of aggression within inpatient mental health units,’ said NSWNA Assistant General Secretary, Judith Kiejda.

The two NSW area health services are among 11 ‘beacon demonstration sites’ taking part in the project across Australia.

Within SESIAHS there are three acute mental health inpatient units involved in the project – Eloura West at Shellharbour and St George and Sutherland hospitals.

‘At each beacon demonstration site the primary aim is to establish centres of excellence,’ said Clinical Nurse Manager Michelle Bradley, executive sponsor for the project. ‘We aim to develop and maintain reform in mental health while implementing the best guidelines based on the best practice.’

Each beacon demonstration site is charged with developing an action plan, employing a project officer, conducting intensive clinical staff training, developing risk management and prevention tools, and monitoring the impact of alternative strategies.

The National Mental Health Seclusion and Restraint Project is also awarding 15 scholarships Australia-wide with the aim of identifying evidence-based practice in other countries. Recipients recently went on a study tour of the USA to investigate whether techniques and methods used there can be adapted to the Australian mental health system.

Judith Kiejda said the project will give nurses an opportunity to develop their clinical skills, particularly in the prevention of aggression and de-escalation. ‘It also has the potential to improve the relationship between nurses, carers and patients,’ she said.

‘By identifying the risks to staff and patients, the beacon demonstration sites hope to assist in developing appropriate strategies to help reduce harm in mental health. These developments and findings will be a benefit to all stakeholders involved in the complex area of mental health.’