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Ban on mentally ill patients being held in police cells

PUBLISHED: 15:34 17 June 2019 | UPDATED: 17:49 17 June 2019

Stock photo of the inside of the Great Yarmoth Police Investigation Centre. Photo: Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk

Stock photo of the inside of the Great Yarmoth Police Investigation Centre. Photo: Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk

Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk

People experiencing a mental health crisis will no longer be held in police cells, Theresa May has announced.

Stock photo of the inside of the Great Yarmoth Police Investigation Centre. Photo: Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for NorfolkStock photo of the inside of the Great Yarmoth Police Investigation Centre. Photo: Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk

As one of her final acts as prime minister Mrs May announced a package of measures she said would "overhaul" the government's approach to mental health.

It includes more training for teachers, extra cash for local authorities for suicide prevention, and greater transparency in how money is spent on mental health services. But it also bans the use of police cells as a place to detain people experiencing mental illness, Downing Street said.

It is a practice North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb spoke out about last year, when he found people with mental health issues were being detained in cells while awaiting assessment or transfer to hospital.

Previously T/ACC Nick Davison of Norfolk Constabulary said detaining patients in cells, as well as police vehicles being used to transport patients to hospital, put "considerable strain" on police resources.

Nick Davison. PIC: Norfolk Police.Nick Davison. PIC: Norfolk Police.

He said: "The fundamental role of the police service is to keep members of the public safe and protect them from harm and this is our primary aim in any situation.

"We will always support other emergency services and local authorities and our officers are dedicated to helping the public when our assistance is required.

"However, doing this does place considerable strain on our own resources and limits our ability to deal with our core business.

"This means that, working with our partners, we have to redouble our efforts to ensure that some of the most vulnerable members of our communities get the support they need."

Stuart Richardson, NSFT chief operating officer. Photo: NSFTStuart Richardson, NSFT chief operating officer. Photo: NSFT

Initiatives to stem the issue have been launched, including mental health nurses being placed within police control rooms.

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Stuart Richardson, NSFT chief operating officer, added: "Mental health is a system-wide issue and NSFT already works closely with our partner organisations, including the police, ambulance service, GPs and social care to improve the quality of 24 hour care we all deliver to service users.

"As has been seen in other NHS trusts nationally, demand for mental health services has steadily increased over the past five years from people who are increasingly more unwell than before and we are seeing more and more people in crisis. This, in turn, puts more pressure on all of our services.

"We are working in partnership with our commissioners to collectively manage these issues. Our commissioners have invested and NSFT has completed an expansion of health-based places of safety and Section 136 suites across all of the trust's inpatient units. We have revised policies and extended training to make all our staff aware of the changes.

"These initiatives ensure that people coming to the attention of the police receive a timely assessment of their mental health needs and are directed to appropriate services at the earliest opportunity.

"These include mental health staff:

- Working in police control rooms in Norfolk and Suffolk

- Working in mental health triage cars with officers in Suffolk

- Attending appointments with police officers in Norfolk when police identify someone who is a person of concern and may require mental health support

"Our mental health nurses work within police control rooms, to try and help avoid the need for a 136 detention in the first place. Our staff can assist the police to signpost people to appropriate places of safety and to avoid a detention under the mental health act, unless the risk of violence is too high for a health-based place of safety.

"In Suffolk, our staff work with officers in the mental health triage car. This sees a mental health staff attend incidents alongside officers when people appear to be experiencing mental health difficulties.

"Our trust also has a criminal justice Liaison and Diversion (L&D) service. From their bases in police stations and courts, the L&D team identify anyone with a vulnerability which may be a factor in their offending or reoffending and will talk through the options available to them. They will then be referred to the appropriate services so they can receive support as they move through the justice system and into the right mental health or social care service.

"Often individuals who have been brought by police to the 136 suite are extremely distressed, vulnerable, and may be physically or verbally violent. Therefore, the police may need to be in attendance until a Mental Health Act assessment has been carried out by the local authority, and we can admit the individual into an inpatient unit for treatment."

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