Published: Thu, November 29, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Police increasingly attending mental health calls

Police increasingly attending mental health calls

"When people with mental illness are unable to receive effective and timely treatment it is very often the police who, as the service of last resort, are there to pick up the pieces".

"People in crisis with mental health problems need expert support - support that can't be carried out in the back of a police vehicle or by locking them into a police cell".

"But we can not expect the police to pick up the pieces of a broken mental health system", she said.

However, she said the situation had worsened to the point "GPs are advising people to call the police to talk to the nurse, as they can be the most easily accessible contact".

She said: "Police officers naturally want to respond and do their best to support vulnerable people when they ask for help".

Police have been left to pick up the pieces amid a national crisis in mental health care, a watchdog report has warned.

"They do get some training but they're not mental-health professionals".

This figure excluded the Metropolitan police which dealt with a mental health call every four minutes and had to send an officer to deal with such a call every 12 minutes.

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A survey of the public published alongside the inspectorate's findings revealed the majority (70%) said the health service should deal with mental health calls, 10% think it should be the council and just 2% believe it is the police's responsibility.

The top five individual report callers to the Metropolitan Police all have mental health problems and called the force a combined total of 8,655 times a year ago, costing it £70,000 just to handle the calls.

Arrests in England and Wales have halved in a decade, while recorded crime has risen recently in a number of categories including homicide and knife-related offences.

Superintendent Allan Wescott, of North Yorkshire Police, said: "Mental health is a frequent factor in many incidents that the police are called to, whether a person is a victim of crime, a witness, or someone who is calling us as a cry for help".

The chancellor of the exchequer unveiled plans for a new NHS mental health crisis service in the Autumn budget this year, which is set to include mental health support in every major A&E department, more mental health ambulances, "safe havens" in communities and a 24-hour mental health crisis hotline.

"Police officers do an excellent job protecting those facing mental health problems in often hard and distressing circumstances and it is right that this report acknowledges police leadership in this area to be strong". All too often this isn't available at the time and place that they need it.

Police forces are being left to pick up the pieces in a "national crisis" in mental-health care and so can not deal with crime, according to a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.

"Although police officers generally do a good job in identifying and responding to those with mental health problems, they must never be considered a substitute for expertly trained healthcare professionals".

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