• disturbed behaviour;
  • inpatients;
  • psychiatric nursing;
  • psychiatry wards;
  • safety;
  • seclusion

bowers l., ross j., nijman h., muir-cochrane e., noorthoorn e. & stewart d. (2011) The scope for replacing seclusion with time out in acute inpatient psychiatry in England. Journal of Advanced Nursing 68(4), 826–835.


Background.  The use of seclusion is unpalatable to nurses and frequently unpleasant for patients. Time out is rated by nurses and patients as more acceptable. Several countries have initiated exercises to reduce the use of seclusion, but England has not.

Methods.  In this study, data were collected on the sequence of conflict (aggression, rule breaking, absconding etc.) and containment (coerced medication, restraint, special observation etc., including time out and seclusion) for the first 2 weeks of 522 acute admissions on 84 wards in 31 English hospitals between June 2009 and March 2010. Data were analysed to describe what preceded and followed time out and seclusion episodes in a nursing shift.

Results.  Seclusion was used with 7·5% of patients, and time out with 15·5%. Both containment methods were used with similar patients in similar circumstances, and both brought disturbed behaviour to a close in half of the cases. Some seclusion appeared to follow less serious disturbed behaviour. There was an important variation in rates of seclusion between hospitals. Seclusion and time out had equally good outcomes in the management of physical violence to others.

Conclusions.  There is good evidence that seclusion rates can be reduced safely, and time out can sometimes be used as a substitute. A national registration and reporting system should be introduced in England, and serious efforts made to reduce seclusion use in hospitals where rates are high.