Centre for Mental Health calls on NHS England to stop punitive practices with people experiencing acute distress

10 March 2023

Centre for Mental Health is deeply disappointed that NHS England has decided not to publish the report of its review of Serenity Integrated Mentoring (SIM) and similar approaches to people experiencing acute distress.

While we welcome the clear message from NHS England in a letter today to NHS trusts that they should not be using SIM or SIM-like services, we are disappointed that it will not publish the review that it coproduced with the StopSIM Coalition.

Serenity Integrated Mentoring was endorsed by NHS England in 2016 as a response to people described as ‘high intensity users’ of emergency services. It involved the routine use of the police in the delivery of mental health support and the threat of coercion, criminal or other sanctions, or withdrawing care in order to gain compliance with treatment or behavioural regimes.

Centre for Mental Health interim chief executive Andy Bell said:

“The NHS in England has a responsibility to offer compassionate and effective support to people experiencing acute distress. The use or threat of coercion or sanctions against people who are unwell should not be part of a modern mental health care system.

“It is clear that SIM was endorsed by NHS England without clear evidence that it was safe or effective, and in the absence of any involvement of experts by experience. This is unacceptable. And it is deeply disappointing that the review of how this happened is not being published despite its importance.

“The NHS needs to reflect on how it supports innovation and how decisions are made about what services are offered and how they are run. Coproduction and partnership with people who use services and with communities is essential to create services that work for people. This is a vital principle for mental health services especially, where expertise by experience has historically been overlooked and coproduction is still not routine.

“The StopSIM Coalition led the way in challenging these practices. This should never have been necessary. It is now up to the NHS across the country to ensure that they end, and to learn from the mistakes that led to SIM being extended without adequate evidence for its safety.”

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