A padded cell is a cell in a psychiatric hospital with cushions lining the walls. The padding is an attempt to prevent patients from hurting themselves by hitting their head (or other bodily parts) on the hard surface of the walls. In most cases, an individual's placement in a padded cell is involuntary.

A woman in a padded cell, 1889

Other names used are "rubber room", seclusion room, time out room, calming room, quiet room, or personal safety room.[1]


The length of time patients were kept in a padded cell varied greatly. Some patients remained locked in a padded cell for several days. A patient might also be made to wear a straitjacket if they were considered at risk of self-harm.[citation needed]

The use of padded cells and straitjackets declined drastically following the introduction of psychotropic drugs in the 1950s. Personal Safety Rooms are still used throughout the world and can be beneficial in providing a safe environment for not only occupants but also staff, and can prevent work-related injuries in the facilities.[citation needed]

A reconstructed padded cell is maintained at the Mental Health Museum, Fieldhead Hospital, Wakefield, UK.[2][3]

Current practiceEdit

Padded cell in a psychiatric hospital in Germany

In the UK seclusion is defined by the Mental Health Act 1983 Code of Practice as: "the supervised confinement of a patient in a room, which may be locked. Its sole aim is to contain severely disturbed behaviour that is likely to cause harm to others."[4] The Code of Practice (paragraph 26.109) says that a seclusion room should only be used for that purpose and should have the following features:[5]

  • "Allow for communication with the patient when the patient is in the room and the door is locked, for example, via an intercom
  • Include limited furnishings, which should include a bed, pillow, mattress and blanket or covering
  • Have no apparent safety hazards
  • Have robust, reinforced window(s) that provide natural light (where possible the window should be positioned to enable a view outside)
  • Have externally controlled lighting, including a main light and subdued lighting for night time
  • Have robust door(s) which open outwards
  • Have externally controlled heating and/or air conditioning, which enables those observing the patient to monitor the room temperature
  • Have no blind spots and alternate viewing panels should be available where required
  • Always have a clock visible to the patient from within the room
  • Have access to toilet and washing facilities"[6]


  1. ^ "rubber room" definition from Double-Tongued Dictionary
  2. ^ "About us: our history". MHM. Mental Health Museum. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  3. ^ "Padded Environment". Stanley Royd Hospital. Wakefield Asylum. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  4. ^ Violence and aggression: short-term management in mental health, health and community settings (Report). NICE. May 2015. NG10. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  5. ^ Mental Health Act 2013 Code of Practice (PDF). Norwich, UK: The Stationery Office. 2015. p. 300. ISBN 978-0-11-323006-8.
  6. ^ "Brief guide: seclusion rooms" (PDF). Care Quality Commission. September 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-11-07. Retrieved 4 November 2017.

External linksEdit