What is the difference between anti-ligature and ligature-resistant?

What is the difference between anti-ligature and ligature resistant?

Written by Jack Freestone • July 19, 2022

'Anti-ligature' and 'ligature resistant' are terms often used in connection with healthcare environments, especially in relation to mental health facilities. A hard truth is that suicide remains an issue in healthcare settings with statistics showing 70% of suicides occuring through the use of a ligature point in the patient’s bathroom, bedroom, or closet.

In this blog, we will explore what is meant by the terms “anti-ligature” and “ligature resistant” and why it is important to ensure environments are suitably equipped to guarantee patient safety. Let’s start by establishing what a ligature point is by defining the word “ligature” itself.

What is a ligature point?

By first defining what a ligature point is, the difference between anti-ligature and ligature resistant becomes much easier to understand. A ligature is a point from which anything that can be used to tie or leverage a cord, rope, or other materials around. In a behavioral or mental healthcare setting, ligature points pose a huge threat to patient safety as they are often used for the purpose of self-harm or suicide.

What does anti-ligature mean?

Though many medical experts regard ‘anti-ligature’ as a misnomer, as pragmatically nothing can be completely ligature-free, the term is used to encompass products designed and adapted to best fit the mental health environment and can be broken down into three main design types:

Load release Anti-Ligature

  • An Item that will release from its fixing to prevent a ligature when an abnormal load is applied.

Fixed Anti-Ligature

  • Item is fixed in place, however, is designed to minimise potential for a ligature to be achieved by looping or wrapping with a cord or similar object.

Weapon deterrent

  • Designed to reduce the risk of an item being used as a weapon or instrument for self-harm or harming staff.

“Anti-ligature”, therefore, refers to a solution or product that is designed to prevent a ligature from staying secure or fixing point for a ligature to be attached.

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What does ligature resistant mean?

While medical experts regard anti-ligature to be an unachievable claim, ligature resistant is defined as: “without points where a cord, rope, bedsheet, or other fabric/material can be looped or tied to create a sustainable point of attachment that may result in self-harm or loss of life”. Ligature resistant products are, therefore, specifically designed with patient safety and well-being in mind - constructed to have smooth and seamless finishing to prevent points where a cord, rope, or any other type of material can be wedged or levered to create a substantial point of attachment/tension that may result in self-harm or the loss of life of a patient.

“Ligature resistance” then, signifies a purpose built product that greatly reduces the ability for patient misuse or vandalisation and, more specifically, is designed without points or sharp edges that could provide opportunity for patients to be unintentionally harmed or to cause intentional harm to themselves and/or others.