13th Dec, 2018

Police face ‘picking up pieces’ on mental health

Ross Crawford 29th Nov, 2018

A REPORT which says mental health provision in England and Wales is failing both patients and police forces, has been welcomed by West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion.

The report, ‘Policing and Mental Health: Picking Up the Pieces’, makes it clear that whilst the police service is doing a good job in difficult circumstances, there are concerns over whether the police should be involved in responding to mental health problems at the current level.

The report emphasises there needs to be a radical rethink and a longer-term solution to what has become a national crisis.

It adds that too often police were being expected to “pick up the pieces of a broken mental health system”.

In the past 12 months, more than 7,000 incidents reported to West Mercia Police were related to mental health.

Mr Campion said: “This report comes as no surprise. Mental health is placing a significant and preventable demand on police forces.”

“Patients need access to the right help, at the right time. That currently isn’t happening, as people suffer mental health crises that could be prevented through effective early intervention.

“At the moment, the police are often expected to deal with these incidents and they cannot provide the professional mental health treatment these people need.”

“I will continue to work with partners to improve the situation, but it is clear that health services have a leading role to take.

“The Government recently announced significant additional investment in mental health. This is very timely and welcome from a policing perspective because, as this report highlights, the demand placed on our force linked to mental health is neither sustainable, nor is it in the best interests of patients or police officers.”

HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham said: “Police officers naturally want to respond and do their best to support vulnerable people when they ask for help.

“And we found that police officers respond to those with mental health problems with care and compassion.

“But we cannot expect the police to pick up the pieces of a broken mental health system.

“Over-stretched and all-too-often overwhelmed, police officers can’t always respond appropriately, and people in mental health crisis don’t always get the help they need.

“People in crisis with mental health problems need expert support – support that can’t be carried out in the back of a police car or by locking them into a police cell.”

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Service (HMICFRS) commissioned a survey to understand better the public’s view of the role of the police service in helping people with mental health problems.

The findings included:

  • Just two per cent of people surveyed felt it was the police’s responsibility to respond to mental health calls.
  • Seventy per cent of people felt it was the main responsibility of the health services to deal with people with mental health problems; and
  • A further 10 per cent felt the local authority or council was responsible.

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