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The use of restrictive practices such as seclusion and restraint in mental health facilities is becoming less common, according to new data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

When restrictive practices are adopted it is for shorter periods than in the past, the statistics also reveal.

Restrictive practices include seclusion, where a patient is confined to a room where they cannot exit freely.

While restraint can entail physical immobilisation techniques carried out by healthcare staff or the use of mechanical devices like belts and straps.

The AIHW report, Mental health services in Australia, shows reductions in restrictive practices from when reporting first began in 2009-10.

“When reporting began in 2009-10 there were about 14 seclusion events recorded for every 1,000 days of patient care,” AIHW spokesperson Matthew James explained.

“In 2017-18, this was down to about seven events per 1,000 days of care.”

A similar drop emerged in relation to the use of mechanical restraint, from about two events per 1,000 days of patient care to 0.5 in 2017-18.

Elsewhere, the use of physical restraint has stayed largely the same since reporting began in 2015-16, with about 10 to 11 events per 1,000 days of patient care.

“Working towards eliminating the use of seclusion and restraint is a policy priority in Australian mental health care and has been supported by changes to legislation, policy and clinical practice,” Mr James said.