Patient and carer holding hands in consolation

Safe Holding in Clinical Practice

James Hourihan, Author

In modern healthcare, the age-old wisdom of “prevention is better than cure” remains a fundamental principle, especially in addressing challenging behaviours and, most importantly, ensuring the safety of both patients and staff.

Safe holding techniques are utilised when de-escalation techniques or non-restrictive interventions have failed to effectively restrain individuals who may present a risk to themselves or others while receiving care and treatment.

As such, it is imperative for healthcare professionals to possess a comprehensive understanding of how to appropriately employ safe holds as an integral component of a patient-centred care strategy.

Why is Safe Holding Important? 

Safe holding skills are important in clinical practice for several reasons: 

  • Ensuring immediate safety: Safe holding serves as an immediate solution to prevent potential harm in dangerous situations where patients may exhibit violent, distressed, or self-destructive behaviour. 
  • Protecting patient dignity: When safe holding is carried out using proper techniques and with utmost respect for patient autonomy, healthcare providers can maintain the dignity and well-being of those in their care, without causing unnecessary harm. 
  • Maintaining a therapeutic environment: By promptly managing challenging behaviours through safe holding, staff can create an atmosphere conducive to optimal patient outcomes. This fosters trust and facilitates the provision of high-quality care.

What Are The Risks of Inappropriate Safe Holding? 

While safe holding can be a necessary restrictive intervention under certain circumstances, it is not without its risks. These include physical injuries such as bruises, sprains or fractures as a result of excessive force and inadequate training. Emotional distress if a patient perceives it as a loss of control or an invasive act, eliciting feelings of anxiety and fear. In some instances, safe holding can infringe upon patient rights and freedom, making it crucial to obtain informed consent whenever possible and consider the least restrictive measures first. It can also result in legal and regulatory consequences that may lead to allegations of negligence and malpractice.

Appropriate Use of Safe Holding Techniques in Clinical Practice 

To mitigate these risks, general practice teams and health professionals should prioritise the following: 

Qualified Training

Healthcare providers should receive thorough training on safe holding techniques from qualified instructors, including proper body mechanics, positioning, and communication skills. Ongoing education and skill development are vital to ensure safe and effective interventions. 

Risk Assessment

Prior to implementing safe holding, a risk assessment should be conducted to determine the appropriateness and necessity of the intervention, considering the unique circumstances and individual patient needs. This helps minimise unnecessary use of safe holding and explore alternative positive behaviour strategies. 

Communication and Teamwork

Effective communication among healthcare team members is crucial during safe holding incidents to ensure a coordinated and safe approach. Clear roles and responsibilities should be established to reduce the risk of error and help build positive rapports between staff and their patients. 

Documentation and Reporting

Accurate and detailed documentation of safe holding incidents plays a vital role in upholding transparency, accountability, and compliance with legal and ethical obligations. Reporting not only helps to identify areas for quality improvement, but also provides a safeguard against potential legal implications.

Protect Your Practice and Patients with Timian’s Safe Holding Training

At Timian, we understand that every situation is unique, which is why our positive behaviour management training course is tailored to your organisation’s specific needs. Our expert trainers have years of experience in the field, and will ensure that staff are equipped with the skills and knowledge to safely support people in crisis. 

Our safe holding training will help you:

  • Effectively manage challenging behaviours 
  • Minimise the use of restraint
  • Promote a culture of safety and respect
  • Provide a better quality of care 

With us by your side, your team will be well-equipped to handle any situation with confidence and professionalism. Call 0800 987 4075, or fill in the form for more information

James Hourihan MSc Econ | FRSA | MIOD


Timian Learning and Development 

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