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NHS Confederation - Partnership working the way forward, say mental health providers and police chiefs

Schemes in which mental health nurses work closely with police on patrol and in call centres have seen a drop in the number of people with mental health problems being detained under the Mental Health Act, according to a briefing published today (Tuesday January 27).

In some areas this reduction has been as high as 50 per cent.

The joint briefing is published by the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network (MHN) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in accordance with the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat, which commits national organisations to work together to improve crisis care. 

Mental health and policing: improving crisis care includes details of pilot schemes where police and health care professionals work more closely together to cut the number of mentally unwell individuals being taken to police cells when they require urgent mental healthcare and treatment instead.

These include:

  • Mental health staff from Isle of Wight NHS Trust and Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust working with Hampshire Constabulary on patrol and in police control centres. The pilot has led to a 50 per cent drop in the number of people detained under the Mental Health Act. 
  • Mental health nurses from Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust are supporting Thames Valley Police officers while they are on patrol and assisting with incidents elsewhere by telephone. Detentions are down by 38 per cent. 

The document also outlines good practice schemes which demonstrate how strong partnership working at all levels can prevent a crisis from escalating and deliver significantly improved outcomes for people in crisis because of a mental health condition. The schemes include street triage, multi-agency training and liaison and diversion services. Across the country police forces are reporting increased contact with children and adults experiencing mental illness.

Key statistics in the report include:

  • Around 50 per cent of individuals passing through police custody are said to have mental health problems . 
  • People with mental health problems are ten times more likely to be victims of crime than the general population. 
  • In 2012/13, nearly two thirds of those who committed suicide within two days of release from custody had mental health problems. 

Chief executive of the Mental Health Network Stephen Dalton, a former mental health nurse, said:

“We know that for a small number of people with mental health problems who experience a crisis, the first response of the public is often to call the police. "But the very nature of a mental health crisis means that a very vulnerable person needs a fast, individual, joined-up response. 

“This joint briefing with ACPO shows that many police forces and mental health services across the country are developing closer partnership working arrangements, joint training initiatives and improved information sharing to support vulnerable people receive the compassionate care, support and treatment they need. 
“The Crisis Care Concordat has shone a spotlight on the need for public services to respond to a mental health crisis as an emergency just as they would to a physical health emergency.
“Mental health practitioners with access to data and with expertise in risk management, are being able to provide support directly to people in crisis, and advise police colleagues on the most appropriate response, with promising results.
“We value partnership working as our shared ultimate goal of ensuring that the right care and support is being delivered to people in crisis.”
National spokesman for mental health and policing, Chief Constable Simon Cole said:
“Close partnership working between the police and health organisations is key to ensuring those experiencing a mental health crisis get the right care at the right time. It can also reduce demand, save money and help us understand the needs of the population we serve.

“Mental health is core police business. The case studies set out here highlight innovative examples of local good practice and reflect our commitment to turning the vision of the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat into a reality.

“However, in order to succeed more must be done. Better information sharing and wider access to health-based places of safety are vital if we are to secure the wellbeing of all vulnerable people in crisis.”

For a copy of Mental health and policing - improving crisis care go to www.nhsconfed.org/mentalhealthpolicing
Channel website: https://www.icaew.com

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