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Inappropriate use of sedative medicines to enforce social distancing guidelines

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  • Organisations we regulate

We appreciate the various complexities of the pandemic and recognise that care providers wish to protect those in their care.

Deciding how to manage vulnerable people who may not understand social distancing guidelines remains a challenge. This population may not have the mental capacity to understand and follow national social distancing guidelines. This could place them at increased risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus.

You may be considering extra measures to deprive this vulnerable population of their liberty to protect them. For example, locking people in their own rooms or using medicines to sedate them and stop them from meeting others.

You must make sure that people’s behaviour is not controlled by excessive or inappropriate use of medicines. See S4.5 of our key lines of enquiry for adult social care:

S4.5 How does the service make sure that people’s behaviour is not controlled by excessive or inappropriate use of medicines?

You must act in a way that is proportionate, pragmatic, safe, and focused on the best interests of individuals and the wider system. We do not advocate the use of sedative medicines or physical restraint to deprive people of their liberty. Instead, we encourage providers to look at alternative methods to minimise the need for any form of restraint. Any decisions should be carefully considered by a multidisciplinary team and documented appropriately.

The principles of the Mental Capacity Act and the safeguards provided by the deprivation of liberty safeguards still apply. The Department for Health and Social Care has also published The Mental Capacity Act (2005) (MCA) and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic.

Last updated:
28 April 2020