Police tackle mental health patients detained in cells

  • In the last two years over 500 people with mental health issues have been detained in police cells in Thames Valley due to lack of NHS resources. /images/mentalhealth.jpg

    Under the Mental Health Act if there is no "safe space" in hospitals available police can detain people. Norman Lamb, the health minister has called this practise a "scandal", reports the BBC.

    Police at Thames Valley have said that a pilot scheme involving mental health nurses out on patrol has helped to reduce these cases. From July 2012 to June 2013 figures from the force show the amount of people detained in police custody under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act was 286.

    In July 2013 to June 2014 the figure was 242 - totalling 528 over the two-year period.

    Mr Lamb has said he wants police forces to halve the amount of such cases by April 2015. To do so, he has since implemented  a pilot scheme across nine forces  where officers take a mental health nurse out on patrol to professionally assess a person's need.

    Thames Valley Policy are part of this pilot and said its 2012 to 2014 figures revealed a 15% reduction in cases, which was largely down to improved communication with the region's mental health services.

    The force's mental health lead, Insp Jan Penny, said when she joined five years ago the majority of people detained by police under mental health legislation "would have gone into police custody".

    Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust said: "In the past year, with increased demand for mental health services we've doubled the number of places of safety we provide. A spokesman added that apart from providing the mental health nurse as part of the pilot, it also provided "24/7 mobile phone advice and support to police who may be involved with incidents where individuals appear to have mental health issues".

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