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News archive - May 2013

Bold, not bland

Bold, not bland

Approximately three quarters of patients who die by committing suicide on psychiatric wards do so by hanging or strangulation. Because of this ever-present threat, design guidance for mental health estates pays particular attention to the need for anti-ligature furniture – fixtures and fittings that are specially designed to prevent any ligature from staying secure when subjected to a load. In other words, if someone tries to use their body weight to strangle themselves, the item the ligature is attached to will fail, therefore preventing asphyxiation.

Health Building Note 03-01: Adult Acute Mental Health Units1 states: “The design and specification of all furniture to be used in service user-accessible areas will be carried out in liaison with the healthcare provider’s supplies, estates and facilities and risk management teams and in accordance with the purchasing strategy of the provider. Anti-ligature design will be a key consideration.”

The most common ligature points include door hooks and handles, windows, shower and sink fittings, wardrobe hanging rails and curtain tracking.

And research has shown that patients do not need to be off the ground to achieve asphyxiation as a ligature can still support 18% of a person’s bodyweight when lying down and 17-32% when sitting. Because of this risk, over the past decade a large number of companies have begun manufacturing dedicated mental health furniture ranges, including Knightsbridge Furniture, Teal Furniture, Tough Furniture, and Intastop.

But as well as preventing hanging, furniture designers also have to consider the threat of barricading and products now have to be sufficiently weighty that they cannot be thrown around, used as a weapon, or used to block or barricade doors. To prevent this, furniture is often designed to be fixed to the floor, or more recently there are a number of ranges that are weighted so they cannot be easily moved.

Knightsbridge Furniture has recently launched its Challenging Behaviour collection, designed in partnership with healthcare professionals, patients and carers and featuring seating, tables and cabinets designed specifically for these high-risk settings.

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