Dudley hospitals deny 'unlawful restraint' of patients
An NHS trust in charge of three hospitals in Dudley has strongly denied claims that its staff have unlawfully restrained patients.
The Department of Health (DoH) described the allegations as "serious" and confirmed an investigation was under way.
A spokesperson for the trust said it "emphatically" denied the allegations.
Paula Clark, the trust's chief executive, said: "There is no truth in the claims."
She said that the concerns had been first raised by John Marchant, the trust's former head of security, more than two years ago and had been "fully investigated" at the time.
"We are surprised he is raising this some 12 months after he left the organisation," she added.
One of Mr Marchant's allegations refers to the restraint of a 14-year-old child. He said security staff refused to restrain the child because they did not believe it to be lawful.
However, Ms Clark said: "We only use proportionate restraint to safeguard the patients themselves, as well as our staff.
"We get, on occasions, adolescents who have behavioural problems. In the case I think Mr Marchant is referring to, we sought support from the local mental health trust and that child was kept in the hospital until a secure placement could be found.
"We do our very best to make sure we are caring for people in the best way but patients can suddenly become violent and then we will call on the security team to come and help us.
"However, the medical and nursing staff are trained to assess the patients before any restraint is applied."
A spokesperson for the DoH said: "These are very serious allegations and we have passed this information to the Care Quality Commission for further investigation.
"We are absolutely clear that physical restraint should only ever be used as a last resort and it should be used for the shortest time possible. There are strict conditions that must be met before any patient is restrained or detained.
"This is precisely why we've asked the Royal College of Nursing to consult on how to reduce the use of restraint and restrictive practices in health and social care settings."